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Full text of "Venerable Sister Catherine Laboure, Sister of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul : taken chiefly from 'La Vénerable Catherine Labouré'"

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CHAPTER I: Early Years and 

I oca lion 

(iod turns all to His ijlory and the good of II s elect." FATITF.U 

AX old legend tells us that Clovis. King of 
France, look under his special protection a 
Benedictine Abbot, and one day promised 
him as a gift " all the land he could go round in 
a day. mounted on a donkey." The offer was 
gladly accepted, and the monk, by a long day s 
riding, gained possession of a large estate. 

Many hundred years later, when the monastery 
thus founded was in ruins, the monks expelled, and 
the land confiscated, God seems to have still watched 
over it specially, for there was born in Fain-les- 
Moutiers. one of the boundaries of the property, a 
little child, who was to be specially favoured by Our 

The birthplace of Catherine Laboure is not far 
from Mont bard, the home of Aleth. the mother of 
St. Bernard, and near Bourbilly. where Jane Frances 
Fremyot de Chant al had lived, but the parents of 
Catherine Laboure did not belong to the Burgundian 
nobility, as did those of St. Bernard and St. Jane 
Frances de Chantal. 

Her father, Peter Laboure, who belonged to one 
of the most honourable families of the district, was 
a farmer. When young, he had desired to embrac-- 


Sister Catherine Laboure 

the priesthood, and had even entered a seminary to 
commence his studies, but either the outbreak of the 
Revolution or his own want of vocation made him 
give up the idea in 1789. A few years later he 
married Louise Madeline Goutard, and lived with her 
at Senailly, a village near Moutiers-Saint-Jcan, till 
1800, when they went back, and settled down de 
finitely at Fain-les-Moutiers. There the birth of 
Catherine, their ninth child, on Friday, May 2, 1806, 
filled them with such joy that it seems as if they 
must have had some secret presentiment of the future 
sanctity of the little one. Next day, the feast of 
the Finding of the Holy Cross, she was baptized and 
given the name Catherine, though she was always 
called Zoe, probably in honour of the Saint on whose 
feast she was born. 

We know nothing about her early days, except 
what a parish priest of the diocese of Sens wrote in 
1896: " This is the brief account of some of those of 
her own age, with whom Catherine played when her 
parents brought her, on the feast of Comarin, to her 
cousin s home in my hamlet. She was gentle and 
kind, always amiable and good-natured with her 
companions, even when they teased her and if she 
saw them quarrelling, she always tried to make 
peace. When a poor beggar came near, she gave 
him any dainty she might have." 

When she was nine years old her mother died. 
What that loss must have been to her family, and 
especially to the three little ones who were still at 
home, can be easily understood. One day, over 
come by loneliness, she climbed on to their little 
altar, and taking in her arms the statue of Our 


Rarly Years and Vocation 

Lady, begged her to be- her mother. The Blessed 
Virgin, touched by IKT child-like confidence, took IKT, 
as \ve shall see. under her special protection. 

All, except the youngest of the boys, had already 
left home. Mary Louise, the eldest girl, who had 
been living with her aunt at Langres, now returned 
to help and comfort her father in his lonely lii e, and 
to take- care of lit lie Augustus, the youngest of the 
family; but Peter Laboure decided that Catherine, 
who was only nine years old, and Tonnie, two years 
younger, still needed a motherly care. 

Margaret, one of his sisters, lived in the little 
village 1 of Saint-Remy, situated on the road leading 
from Montbard to Fain-les-Moutiers. The castle of 
Saint-Kemy was formerly the property of the unch s 
of St. Bernard, and it is said that in our own days, 
in the humble church of this country town, over 
four hundred souls testify to apparitions of the 
Sacred Heart of Jesus, calling them to penance. 
The Benin i dine Religious, in a convent close by. 
de-vote their lives to acts of Reparation. It was at 
Saint-Rcmy that Catherine and her sister lived during 
the years 1810 and 1817. Their aunt, who was 
married to a merchant, Anthony Jeanrot. had four 
daughters, one of whom, Clandine, always looked 
buck happily to the days of her companionship with 
Zoe, according to the testimony of Father Lalourcey, 
parish priest of Saint-Remy, who died in 1909. 

In 1S18. two years after Catherine and Mary 
Antoinette had been confided to her care, their 
aunt s time became so taken up with business, that 
she was obliged to leave the children to the care of 
a nurse. At the same time, Peter Laboure was 


Sister Catherine Laboure 

longing to have his two little girls once more at his side, 
especially as his eldest daughter, Mary Louise, who 
had been educated at Langres, was anxious to leave 
home and enter as postulant there, with the Sisters 
of Charity. He therefore decided on their return. 

Catherine, then just twelve years of age, was well 
able to fill her sister s place. " We two !" she cried 
out joyfully to her little sister, " we are going to 
take charge of the house." On her return home her 
first great act was to make her first Communion, in 
the parish church of Moutiers -Saint- Jean. 

In this church, formerly served by the monks of 
the abbey, was celebrated as the feast of the parish. 
January 25. anniversary of the Conversion of 
St. Paul. This is also the anniversary of the day 
on which God had chosen, in 1617, to give to 
St. Vincent de Paul the first thought of the Con 
gregation of the Mission, and it is probable that the 
coincidence was meant by his great friend Monsieur 
de Chandenier, who was then Lord Abbot at Moutiers- 
Saint-Jean. to show his appreciation of the work of 
St. Vincent. 

Catherine, though ignorant of these historical facts, 
and unconscious that St. Vincent was already smiling on 
his future daughter, was enraptured by the happiness 
of her intimate union with Our Lord, and from that 
day eagerly looked forward to the time when she would 
belong to Him alone, in some religious community. 

She seemed to become even more serious than her 
mother s death had already made her; so serious, 
indeed, that her life from twelve to eighteen years 
of age may be summed up in three words: work, 
penance, and prayer. 




Early Years and Vocation 

As i or her work, when Mary Louise left home it 
was arduous enough. At lirst with the help of a 
servant, hut afterwards only with tliat of her young 
sister, she eooked, minded the house, carried food 
to the held i or the twelve or fourteen men in her 
lather s service, and Look motherly care of little 
Augustus, who was always frail and sickly. Years 
after, Antoinette related that her great amusement 
each day was to watch Catherine feeding the doves, 
of which they had between seven and eight hundred. 
They all knew Catherine so well that as soon as she 
appeared at the door, they would ily round and 
round her, as if to weave a crown around her head, 
and then alight to feed out of her hand. 

To her never-ending work at home, Catherine, 
urged by her spirit of penance, added that of fasting 
every Friday and Saturday. Antoinette, the only 
confidante of all her secrets, one day thinking that 
she was re-ally in want of food, threatened to tell her 
father. " Well, go on, tell him if you like," said 
Catherine so abruptly that we can easily realize how 
intensely self-willed and intractable she was naturally. 
The father, however, gave Tonnie no satisfaction. 
He seemed to pay no attention to what she said, and 
though afterwards he made a slight remark about it 
to Catherine, he nevertheless left her quite free to 
follow her desires. 

It was her fidelity to prayer which sustained the 
holy child in her austere life. When her work was 
over she went each day to the little church which 
was beside their gate. There, on the white walls of 
the nave, are still to be seen the Stations of the 
Cross which were the gift either of Catherine or 


Sister Catherine Laboure 

her eldest sister. Near the sanctuary is a little 
altar surmounted by a picture of Our Lady. A 
chapel at the side of the altar, separated from the 
rest of the church by a stone balustrade, was reserved 
for the use of the Laboure family, and there on the 
paved floor Catherine would pray for long hours, 
prostrate on the bare stones. She thus contracted 
a painful inflammation in her knees, for the relief of 
which she would never submit to any remedy, nor 
even in her old age consent to kneel on a cushion in 
order to alleviate the pain. After the example of St. 
Bernard, who when a student often prayed in the 
chapel of Our Lady at Chatillon-sur-Seinc, and was 
there inspired with that love of the Mother of God 
which later obtained for him the title of " Inspired 
Poet of Mary," Catherine by her long prayers in the 
neighbouring chapel of Fain, prepared herself, un 
knowingly, for the future favours of Our Lady. 

The church of Fain-les-Moutiers, however, did not 
satisfy her spiritual needs, as one can easily under 
stand. Sunday Mass was said there only when a 
priest from a neighbouring parish could be got to say 
it, and, as she herself recounted years after, in order 
to go to Confession one had first to " hunt " for the 
priest. She therefore often went to daily Mass in 
the chapel attached to the Hospice of Moutiers-Saint- 
Jean. which had been founded by St. Vincent de 
Paul, and placed under the care of the Sisters of 

^ While still a little child, she had often said she 
" loved to stay alone with God," and year by year 
the longing grew more and more urgent. She re 
solved to consecrate herself to Him in religious life, 

Jiar/y Years and Vocation 

but at first she had no special attraction to any 
coniniunitv. However, when she was about eighteen 
ycais of age she had a dream, wliieh she could not 
then understand, but wliieh afterwards strengthened 
her great desire to become a Sister of Charily. 

One night, in her sleep, she thought she was 
praying as usual in the little chapel of Our Lady at 
Fain, when suddenly an old priest entered, vested, 
and said Mass. 1 \Yhen it was over he made a sign 
to Zoe to come to him, as if he wished to speak to 
her: but she, bewildered and frightened, instead of 
approaching, moved away, without, however, being 
able to avoid his penetrating gaze, which seemed to 
read her inmost thoughts. Still in her dream, she 
thought that on leaving the church, she went to visit 
a sick person, when, suddenly, the gentle old priest 
appeared once more before her, and said, " My child, 
it is good to visit the sick. You fly from me now, 
but one day you will be glad to come to me. (iod 
has designs on you. Do not forget." 

AY hen Catherine awoke her dream was still vividly 
before her; but who the priest was, or what his words 
meant, she tried in vain to fathom, until a few years 
after, when visiting the house of the Sisters at 
Chatillon, and seeing, for the first time, a picture of 
St. Vincent de Paul, she exclaimed in astonishment, 
That is the very priest I saw in my dream." 

In the meantime, however, she felt that the time 
had not yet come for her to leave home, and so she 
spoke to no one about her vocation, not even to her 
most intimate friend, the Sister-Servant of t he- 
Sisters of Charity, who were in charge of the hospice 
at M ( >ut iers-Saint -Jean. 


Sister Catherine Labour^ 

This friend was Sister Catherine Soucial, who, 
thirty years before, had been enlightened as to her 
true vocation, when praying before the Miraculous 
Altar of Our Lady of Buglose. Her seminary being 
over, she had been sent to the House of the Sisters 
at Chatillon-sur-Seine. In 1793, driven out by the 
Revolution, and isolated from those with whom she 
had lived in the community, her only means of 
safety seemed to be to return home. But hearing, 
by chance, that the Sisters were still left at their 
post at Moutiers-Saint-Jcan, she, as a last chance of 
saving her vocation, had sought refuge there, where 
she remained for sixty years, thirty of which had 
gone by when Catherine first visited the house. It 
seems strange that in their friendly talks they never 
alluded to vocation. But the reason is plain. Sister 
Catherine Soucial was a true daughter of St. Vincent 
de Paul, who had so strongly urged that no influence 
should ever be used to entice anyone to enter either 
of his communities. Besides her fidelity in following 
his advice, she had also had such strong personal 
experience of the mysterious ways of Divine Provi 
dence in revealing His Will that she would have been 
the last in the world to ask anyone to join the com 
munity of the Sisters of Charity or use the slightest 
influence in any vocation. She counselled and en 
couraged Catherine in her penitential and laborious 
life, but was careful not to influence her in any other 

Catherine had many offers of marriage, which she 
always emphatically refused. No wonder all human 
love should fade, her only desire being to belong to 
God alone, for, as she herself often said, she had 


Early Years and Vocation 

" long since been betrothed lo Jesus, and wished for 
Him as Spouse." 

When slie i)eeame of age, she realized that the 
time had conic when Ciod willed her to forsake the 
world. She. therefore, went to her father and told 
him I hat she wished to follow in the footsteps of 
Mary Louise, and become a Sister of Charily, begging 
his consent on the pleii that he would not be left 
alone, as he might count on the affectionate devotion 
of Mary Antoinette, then close on twenty years of 
aije. and quite capable of taking her place. In spite 
of all she- could urge, Peter Labourc flatly refused 
his consent, lie had already, he said, made one 
great sacrifice in giving his eldest daughter to the 
service 1 of (iod, in the family of St. Vincent, and it 
was far too much to expect him to make another; 
separation from his favourite child, as Catherine had 
always been, was quite out of the question. Fully 
determined to distract her mind from all thoughts 
of religious life, he at once began to plan many 
amusements for her. At length, seeing that her 
desire was unchanged, he decided to send her for a 
time to Paris, where she would see more of the world 
than was possible at Fain-les-Mouticrs. He there 
fore wrote to her brother Charles, then in charge of 
a restaurant for workmen in Paris, and told him 
of Catherine s proposed visit, begging him at the 
same time to spare nothing that would induce her to 
give up her project and prove to her that she could 
save her soul as well in the world as in a convent. 
She accordingly went to her brother s house in Paris, 
but the more she saw of the world the greater was 
her desire to leave it, and at last, wearied out, she 


Sister Catherine Laboure 

decided to consult her sister, now Sister-Servant 1 of 
a House of Charity in the south of France. The reply 
of Mary Louise came quickly; her letter ran thus: 

"MY DEAR ZOE, " 1829 - 

The grace of Our Lord be with us for ever. 
I cannot tell you what pleasure your dear letter 
gave me. I love you far too much not to congratu 
late you on the attraction with which God has 
inspired you for a community which is so dear to 
me. You say you wish you already possessed that 
happiness. Oh, if you could only realize it ! If God 
begins to speak to your heart, no one has the right 
to prevent you from entering the service of so good 
a Master, which is the grace I beg Him to bestow 
on you. Try to become worthy of so good a God, 
Who redeemed us from the power of the devil, Who 
gave us the last drop of His Blood, and promises He 
will reward all that we do for Him a hundredfold in 
this life, and make us partakers of His eternal kingdom 
in the next. These are the words of Our Lord Him 
self, and ought to strengthen us in His service. God 
forbid that I should say they were addressed only to 
those who are called to the religious life, for they 

1 In the community of the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de 
Paul, the Superioress of each house is c.illed the " Sister-Servant." 
In one of his instructions to the first young girls, under the care 
of the Ven. Louise de IMarilkc, St. Vincent said: "I have often 
thought of the humility of Our Lady, manifested in her words to 
the Angel of the Incarnation: Behold the handmaid of the Lord. 
It has made me wish that those among you, who are in charge, 
would be called Sister-Servant. What do you think about this ? 
All the Sisters gladly consented. 


Early Years and Vocation 

apply to all who seek perfection, which is simply to 
love God and their neighbour, according to their 
state in life. 

" But as to our vocation! How much I wish I 
could give you even a , light idea of its advantages 
What is it to be a Daughter of Charity? It is in 
give oneself to C.od without reserve- in the service of 
the poor, His suffering members, to console the unfor 
tunate, lo become the spiritual mother of innocent, 
children, who arc abandoned by culpable parents, and 
compassionate the miserable, by caring for them in 
their illness, visiting them and urging them to be 
resigned in all things to liis Holy \\ill. 

wt What a sublime work ! It is to imitate Jesus 
Christ in His active and loving life; it is to be, as it 
were, loaded with His most loving gifts, to be the 
distributors of His alms, messengers of His goodness, 
organs of II is bounty ! It is His Heart He confides to 
us. His feelings with which He inspires us. as apostles of 
His charity. The state of a cloistered religious appears 
at first sight more perfect than ours. Lost in con 
templation, she seems to be nearer to God than we 
a ic. She sighs in secret like the dove, and raising her 
hands to Heaven implores the Divine Mercy; but a 
Sister of Charity, with the same purity of heart, and 
detachment from creatures, surpasses her by the 
sublimity of her duty, and the greatness of her vic 
tories. A cloistered religious resembles the soldier, 
who in time of peace watches over the safety of his 
country; but a Sister of Charity resembles him who 
stands face 1 to face with the enemy. Hotli one and 
the other merit the gratitude of the nation, but those 
who fight are honoured as much more, as their 

Sister Catherine Laboure 

courage and fidelity have endured a harder 

We are not bound, as are cloistered religious, to 
austerities, such as wearing a hair-shirt or using a 
discipline; we replace it by the fulfilment of our 
laborious duties that is, laborious according to the 
world, which knows nothing of spiritual rewards and 
interior consolations. 

The consolation is such that if at this moment 
someone was powerful enough to offer me the posses 
sion of, not merely a kingdom, but the whole universe, 
I would look upon it as the dust at my feet, knowing 
that I would not find in the possession of the whole 
world the happiness I feel in my vocation." 

It is not our custom," continued Sister Mary 
Louise, " to ask anyone to enter the community; I 
hope God will pardon my weakness in this regard for 
you. He knows that the salvation of your soul is as 
dear to me as that of my own, and how ardently I 
desire that you should be of the number of those to 
whom He will say one day, Come, ye blessed of My 
Father, possess the kingdom prepared for you; for I 
was hungry and you gave Me to eat, I was thirsty 
and you gave Me to drink, I was a stranger and you 
took Me in, naked and you clothed Me, sick and you 
visited Me, I was in prison and you came to Me. 
That is the life of a true Daughter of Charity. 

" Judge, therefore, if for the short time you have 
still to spend on earth, only a few hours perhaps, 
is it not better to serve God than the world ? How 
sweet and desirable are God s rewards, how bitter are 
those of the world ! Day by day experience proves 

ILarly Years and Vocation 

this. Therefore, if God calls you, follow Him. If, 
after having recognized your vocation, you feel sad 
because you will not be placed here with me, offer that 
fresh sacrifice to God, and His Divine Providence may, 
perhaps, arrange a meeting for us. Let us leave 
ourselves to His care, for that is the best plan. As 
for me. I will do all I can for you." 

The letter ends with this advice: 

" I wish that you would pass some time with our 
dear sister-in-law, as she proposes, so that you can 
get the education which is so necessary in any state 
of life. You would learn there to speak French a 
little better than they do in our village; you could 
also improve yourself in your writing and arithmetic, 
but above everything else in piety, fervour, and love 
of the poor." 

The sister-in-law mentiened in the letter was Jane 
Goutard, who had married her cousin Hubert, eldest 
brother of Catherine Laboure. He had joined the 
army when still a lad, and was connected with 
it. in one way or another, until his death in 1865. 
His wife was head-mistress of a boarding-school at 
Chatillon. in which were educated the children of 
many of the nobility of the district, and to this 
school Catherine was admitted. 

11(4 father had readily consented, for he thought 
that the intercourse with the pupils would help to 
distract her; but neither the designs of her father, 
nor those of her sister, were realized, for Catherine 
felt so out of place among the young girls, whose 
manners were more or less frivolous, that neither her 

Sister Catherine Labour^ 

love for the world, nor her education, made much 

But God s ways are not our ways, and it so hap 
pened that Catherine was irresistibly attracted to a 
house, situated quite near the school, which Father 
Frerot, Bishop of Angouleme, thus describes: "If 
you follow the street of Vieux-Bourg, so well known 
to all the poor, you will pass through a little court 
yard, protected by an iron railing of the handsome 
Louis XV. style, and come to a house of unassuming 
appearance. A statue, over the door, representing 
St. Vincent de Paul covering two little ones with 
his mantle, tells you at once that you are in one 
of those homes where misery and weakness are sure 
to find relief. Wait a little, and presently you will 
see the white cornette of some of the Sisters of Charity, 
who are passing to and fro, giving alms to the poor 
of the town, or food to some hungry tramp, or, 
perhaps, remedies to a child for its sick parents, a,nd 
speaking kindly and encouragingly to all. It is a 
relieving-office originally called The Hospice of 

It was here, as has been already related, that, at 
Catherine s first visit, seeing a picture of St. Vincent 
de Paul, the meaning of her dream had been made 
clear to her. Here it was also that, repeating the 
incident to Father Vincent Prost, he reassured her, 
saying, " I firmly believe, my child, that the old 
priest you saw in your dream was St. Vincent de 
Paul, who is calling you to be a Daughter of Charity." 

A new Superior, Sister Josephine Cany, had been 
placed, since 1828, at the head of the house at 
Chatillon. The young Sister-Servant was assisted 


Early Years and Vocation 

by a chosen soul. Sister France s Victoria Sejole. 
Sister Victoria had begun work Tor the, poor in a most 
trying ollice, having been charged with a new work 
room, in which the young girls were at that time 
very undisciplined. One of them is reported to have 
boasted that she had resolved not to obey a Sister 
until she had seen her able to sew the wristband of 
a shirt as well as she did herself. Sister Victoria, 
feeling her own incapacity to do the work entrusted 
to her, confided in God, and seeming to pay no 
attention to the remark, took up her sewing. God 
heard her prayer, and, to everyone s surprise, not 
only was her needlework perfect, but she also very 
soon gained the affectionate submission of these 
young girls, and had the consolation of seeing them 
quite converted. So much influence did she gain 
over them that, of their own free will, they would 
return each Sunday to hear her instruction, and 
every year joined fervenlly in three days retreat. 
After a few years Sister Victoria was given charge of 
the visiting of the sick in their homes, and it was 
in this office she came in contact with Catherine 

Her years of work among the poor had intensified 
her natural sympathy with those in distress, and, 
accustomed as she was to discern and to alleviate 
the hidden sufferings of others, she quickly reali/cd 
how uncongenial, to the naturally shy Catherine, was 
the frivolous and worldly-minded companionship of 
the schoolgirls. Therefore, when Catherine asked to 
be received as postulant, and the Sister-Servant 
hesitated to receive her until her elementary educa 
tion was finished, Sister Victoria begged for her 


Sister Catherine Laboure 

admission, promising to continue the lessons begun 
in the boarding-school. " Sister, do receive her/ 
she said, " she has exactly the vocation St. Vincent 

It was necessary, however, to obtain her father s 
consent. This Madame Hubert Laboure undertook 
to do, and she at last succeeded, though with great 
difficulty, in persuading Peter Laboure to resign 
himself to parting with his favourite child. In order 
to show his unwillingness, he refused to give her 
any dowry. However, her sister-in-law generously 
provided all that was necessary, and in the first days 
of 1830, Zoe Laboure reached the longed-for harbour 
of religious life, and commenced her postulation. 

This is the time of probation which in all com 
munities precedes the novitiate. With the Sisters 
of Charity it lasts about three months, in one of 
their houses, where the Sisters work absolutely for 
the poor. A young girl can then see for herself that 
real work in the service of the poor which will be 
expected of her, and the Sisters, on their part, 
can decide if the applicant is a suitable subject. 
Catherine, from the very first day, felt that she had 
found her true home, and joyfully, as well as humbly 
and earnestly, gave herself entirely to the accom 
plishment of the duty marked out for her by the 
Sister-Servant, as well as that which St. Vincent 
laid down in the rules. Years after an old woman, 
named Mariette, who lived in the house, said she 
had been struck by Catherine s fidelity, from the 
very first days of her postulation, to the exercise 
which the rules of the Daughters of Charity exact 
in these words, "At 3 o clock they will kneel down 


Years and Vocation 

and a Sister will say aloud, fc Christus factus cst j)ru 
nobis obediens usque ad mortem, mortem aiilem 
crucis, propter quod et Deus exaltavit ilium. Tln.-ji 
the\ will adore the Son of God dying for the salva 
tion of our souls, and will offer Him in His agony to 
the eternal Father, begging Him to apply the merits 
of II is death to those who are in their agony, to the 
conversion of sinners, and the relief of the souls in 

As for Sister Victoria, faithful to her promise, she 
taught the postulant, as well as the prayers and 
customs in use in the community, the elements of 
reading and writing. Their daily intercourse filled 
the two souls with a mutual affection and respect, 
which Sister Victoria in late years expressed more 
than once. 

Thus late in the year 1830, when the news of the 
apparition of Our Lady to one of the Seminaiy 
Sisters in the mother-house spread throughout the 
Community. Sister Sejole said : " If the Blessed 
Virgin appeared to a Sister in the seminary, I 
am sure it was to Sister Laboure, for that child was 
destined to receive the greatest heavenly favours." 
And years after, having been named Sister-Servant 
of the Hospice at Moutiers-Saint-Jean, each time 
she made her retreat at the mother-house in Paris, 
she would make a point of going to the Hospice 
at Knghien to see Sister Catherine. She used also 
to tell her companions to do so too whenever 
they went to Paris to make their retreat, saying, 
" Sister, when the whole truth about Sister Catherine 
is known I shall be dead, but you will still be 
here, and you will then feel glad that you have seen 

Sister Catherine Laboure 

and spoken to this Sister, who is so privileged by the 
Blessed Vir- .in." 

Sister M. Louise was overjoyed at hearing from 
Catherine that she had begun her postulation so soon, 
and on January 22, 1830, she wrote her congratu 
lations : 


" I received your two letters with the greatest 
pleasure, especially the last, which cdiiied me so 
much. Continue, dear, to confide in God as you do 
now. and I assure you that you will always be happy. 
He is a loving Father, who repays any sacrifices made 
for His sake. What more could we possibly desire 
than to have God for our Father ? Lot us not abuse 
His graces and the Kingdom of God will be ours. 
What need have we of the goods of this earth, when 
we have His joys and His consolations ? We must 
rise above every trial and tribulation, honour or 
contempt, health or sickness, and let our whole 
ambition be to reach the end of our exile. Let us 
serve God alone, let us love Him alone; it is only in 
our love for Him that we begin here below to enjoy 
the happiness of the elect, and taste the bliss of our 
true country." 

At the end of April, 1830, the time of postulation 
was nearly over, and the hour was not far distant 
when God Avilled to bestow on Catherine His special 
favours. Unconscious of the designs of Providence, 
yet full of confidence in His care, and longing for the 
moment when she would give herself to God without 
reserve, in the family of St. Vincent, she went, full 
of joy, to the seminary in the mother-house at the 
Rue de Bac, Paris. 



CHAPTER II: First Appari 
tions : April to July, 1830 

>l I will draw thec by the bands of love." CANTICLE OF CANTICLES. 

CATHERINE LABOURE entered the novitiate 
towards the end of April, 1830. It was 
a time of special rejoicing, both for the 
Priests of the Mission and the Sisters of Charity. 

In 1793, the Revolution and the Reign of Terror 
had dispersed nearly the whole of the two families 
of St. Vincent. The priests of the Mission had cither 
been driven from the country, imprisoned, or put to 
death, and their houses desecrated. 

Strange to say. however, that though the House 
of St. Lazarc was confiscated, and everything in it 
seized by the Communists, the priests had been able 
to save that which they valued more than anything 
olse -namely, the body of their holy Founder. It 
remained safe in the care of a friendly lawyer until 

The Sisters of Charity had also been turned out of 
their hospitals and schools; but many of them, 
impelled by love for the service of the poor, to which 
they had consecrated their lives, continued, in a 
secular costume, to visit the poor, and nurse the sick. 
They were re-established in Paris under Napoleon 
in 1800. Four years later, the Priests of the Mission 
also returned, and the first care of Father Brnnct, 


Sister Catherine Labourt 

then Vicar-General, was to transmit the body of 
St. Vincent to the Chapel of the Sisters of Charity, 
where it was safely and lovingly guarded until 1830. 
The Chapel of the Priests of the Mission had been 
built at St. Lazare in 1827, but the Translation of 
the Relics had not then been thought prudent, for, 
though devotion to St. Vincent dc Paul was so 
popular in France that the Archbishop wished 
special honour paid to his relics, there was still 
such public animosity against all priests and religious 
orders, that he feared any demonstration on their 
side would be the occasion of violent attacks, both 
by the press and the government. 

In 1830, however, when the French army was 
preparing for the expedition to Algiers, Monsigneur 
de Quelen felt urged to invoke the aid of St. Vincent, 
who had himself suffered slavery in Africa. He 
therefore decided to brave the power of the atheists, 
and authorized the Translation of the Relics, from 
the Chapel of the Sisters of Charity to the Church of 
Notre-Dame, whence they would be carried in pro 
cession to the Church of St. Lazare. 

This took place on Sunday.. April 25, 1830. Twelve 
Bishops, and a great number of priests, assisted, 
amidst countless multitudes of people, at St. Vincent 
de Paul s triumphal progress through that Paris 
which he had, in his life, filled with the works of his 

During the following eight days constant pil 
grimages, not only from Paris and the villages near, 
but from distant cities, were made to the Church of 
St. Lazare to honour the holy relics. But if the joy 
of all was great, how can we describe that of the 


First Apparitions 

Sons and Daughters of St. Vincent ! It was a time 
of special grace, both for the Priests of the Mission 
and the Sisters of Charity, and God, who had formerly 
called Vincent from the care of his father s flock to 
be the instrument of His mercy, now called Sister 
Catherine Laboure to the mother-house of the com 
munity, to confide to her the secrets of His later 
merciful designs. 

We will give the account of the heavenly favours 
which awaited her in Sister Catherine s own words, 
written twenty-six years later under obedience to her 
confessor, Father Aladel: 

Father, you wish me to give you a few details 
of what occurred twenty-six years ago. I feel quite 
incapable; nevertheless, I am going to do so as 
clearly as I can. 

I beg Mary, my dear Mother, to recall it all to 
rny mind. O Mary ! May it be for thy greater 
glory and that of thy Divine Son ! 

" I came (to the Mother-House) on April 21, 1830, 
the Wednesday before the translation of the relics 
of St. Vincent de Paul. Happy to have arrived in 
time for this great feast, it seemed to me that I 
belonged no longer to this world ! 

I begged St. Vincent for all the graces necessary 
for me, for his two families (i.e., the Congregation of 
the Mission and the Sisters of Charity), and for France, 
which seemed to me to be in great need of prayer; 
and then with lively faith 1 asked St. Vincent to 
teach me what he wished me to ask for. 

Whenever I left the church at St. Lazare I felt 
sad, but on my return to the community chapel I 
seemed to meet again St. Vincent, or rather his heart. 


Sister Catherine Labour^ 

which appeared to my great consolation above the 
little shrine where his relics were exposed. It ap 
peared to me differently each time, on three consecu 
tive days: first a pale flesh colour which foretold 
peace, calm, innocence, and union; then a fiery red, 
like a flame of charity in all hearts, and it seemed to 
me that the whole community would be renovated 
and extend throughout the whole world; and then 
a dark red colour, which filled my heart with such 
sorrow, that I was overwhelmed with a sadness which 
I found hard to overcome; and though I did not 
understand why or how, I felt this sadness was caused 
by the change of Government." 

On the last day of the octave, Sister Catherine 
again saw the heart of St. Vincent, once more of 
a bright red colour, and the voice said, " The heart 
of St. Vincent is a little consoled, because he has 
obtained from God, through the intercession of Mary, 
that his two families shall not perish in the midst 
of these misfortunes, and that God will make use of 
them to renew the Faith." 

Sister Catherine continued: "I was also favoured 
with another grace, which was to see Our Lord in 
the Blessed Sacrament, during all my time in the 
seminary, except when I doubted, or feared I might 
be the victim of self-deception." 

These words show us how sincere and how humble 
was Sister Catherine, for we need scarcely say that 
she did not doubt the mystery of the Real Presence 
in the Sacred Host, which faith teaches us, but she 
questioned the reality of the vision, of which she 
judged herself unworthy. 

" Daring Mass on the feast of the Blessed Trinity," 


First Apparitions 

she continues, " Our Lord appeared to me in the 
Blessed Sacrament, in the form of a king with a cross 
on His Breast. At the (iospel it seemed to me that 
the cross slipped under the Feet of Our Lord, and 
that all Tlis kingly jewels fell to the ground. Then 
I was filled with the gloomiest thoughts about our 
earthly king being dethroned, and despoiled of his 
royal garments, and from that came thoughts that I 
cannot explain, about the ruin which would be the 

Nevertheless," wrote Sister Catherine, concluding 
the account of her first apparition in words which 
reveal how absolute her submission had been, 
could not resist speaking of it to my confessor, who 
calmed me as much as possible, by turning me from 
these thoughts." 

The confessor, Father Aladel. a young priest, just 
thirty years of age. was acting prudently ct in turning 
her from these thoughts," as much on account of 
his penitent s age, and his own inexperience, as 
on account of her extraordinary revelations. In 
fact, there seemed every reason to think that the 
novice was the dupe of her imagination and that no 
credit was due to her communications. How. indeed, 
at the end of April, 1830, the time of the greatest 
prosperity of France, could anyone foresee that the 
end of July would witness the shedding of blood and 
the fall of Charles X. ? 

But even if future events had been known to 
Father Aladel. his prudence demanded that he should 
receive the confidences of his young penitent with 
great reserve. 

As the time of postulation shows to those who 


Sister Catherine Laboure 

desire to enter the commimity 5 the work and means 
to be employed in the Service of the Poor, so the 
time of novitiate reveals, to the Daughter of St. 
Vincent de Paul and Venerable Louise de Marillac, the 
secrets of that hidden life which the holy Founders 
prescribed for them. 

Sister Catherine willingly withdrew into the silence 
of that hidden life in the seminary. Her only wish 
was to remain unknown in the midst of her com 
panions, and to avoid, even with her relations, all 
intercourse which was not strictly necessary. No 
one, in or out of the seminary, except Father Aladel, 
had any idea of the particular graces bestowed on 
Sister Catherine, but even he was absolutely ignorant 
of the treasure which was soon to be confided to the 
Family of St. Vincent de Paul. 

Indeed, if we did not realize this, the following 
letter written on May 25, 1880, by her sister, then 
Sister-Servant of Castelsarrasin, would prove it: 

I have just heard with pleasure, my dear and 
good Zoe, that you are in the seminary. Your silence 
since March 24 made me very uneasy about you, 
thinking that you had perhaps changed your mind. 
Though I pitied you very much, I had, nevertheless, 
not been able to make my act of resignation. The 
good disposition that I remark in your last letter 
has, however, reassured me, and so I am quite happy, 
and do not pity you any more, but, on the contrary, 
I thank God, and beg Him to give you the spirit of 
our holy state and that perseverance which He never 
refuses to those who correspond to His graces. When 
you receive my letter, if you have nothing particular 


First Apparitions 

lo say lo me, you need not answer it at once. J am 
sending on a postulant, though the exaet day is not 
yet fixed, and you will then hear i roin me again 
or if I have not time to write she will be able to tell 
you all the news- and by that time you will be more 
accustomed to the life, and will be able to write to 
me and tell me all about it. I am not any longer 
feeling anxious about you; for your happiness will 
be as great as can be hoped for in this world if you 
are docile and listen to the good counsels which will 
never be wanting to you. 

t- I hope you said good-bye to your own will, on 
the way from Chatillon to Paris if you did. 1 con 
gratulate yon: be sure never to reclaim it. It is 
certainly belter to follow the will of our superiors 
than to do our own. Keep before- your mind that 
you are not now in your own home, and that you 
no longer know how to do anything; that thought, 
together with goodwill, will help you to persevere to 
the end. It is while we are in the seminary, my dear, 
that we must sow the seed of all virtues. The most 
necessary is humility. It is not indeed, difficult to 
look upon ourselves as the last of all, when one has 
meditated even for a short time in the House of God. 
Every place there is exalted, but the hist is always 
the best; I hope you are convinced of this, and t hat 
you will profit by it. 

w 1 think you are in retreat. Love God with all 
your heart, and pray for me. (Jive my respects to our 
worthy Mothers in the seminary, particularly Mother 
Martha. Oh, how much we still love to talk among 
ourselves about her holy instructions ! I mean to 
send a letter to her by our postulant, who will go, 


Sister Catherine Laboure 

no doubt, early next week. Till then let us be 
united to God; pray for me who, in the love of Jesus 
Christ, and of Mary, am always, 

Your most devoted Sister, 

" Sr. M. L. LABOURE, 
" U.D.C.S.P.S. 

" [Unworthy Daughter of Charity, Servant of the 
Poor Sick.]" 

May 25, 1830, the day this letter was written, 
i ound Sr. Catherine Laboure deep in the spiritual 
exereiscs of her first great retreat. Mother Martha 
was the Direetress of the seminary. We, however, 
know nothing of Sister Catherine s personal relations 
with her, and only the following incident with Sister 
Cailhot, the third Directress, has been remembered, 

It seems that one day, absorbed by the beauty of 
a spectacle she had just contemplated in the chapel, 
Catherine left untouched the food placed before 
her in the refectory. Sister Cailhot, who was in 
charge, spoke rather sharply, saying, " Well, Sister 
Laboure, are you still in ecstasy ?" 

The remark was nearer the truth than she imagined, 
for the apparitions, according to the narration of 
1856, had succeeded each other almost without 

During the first days of July, when Algiers had 
fallen before the power of the French, the whole 
country rejoiced at the news of victory, and the 
churches resounded with hymns of thanksgiving. 

It was in the midst of these triumphs that Sister 
Catherine Laboure was to hear from the lips of Our 
Blessed Mother the confirmation of all her sad pre- 

First Apparitions 

sentiments. Besides telling her uf present events, 
Our Ljuly also foretold those of tlie lutur* 1 , and 
added ho\v God willed to eonlide to her a mission, 
which later would be made known to her. 

\\ e must listen to Sister Catherine s own account 
of the lirst apparition of the Blessed Virgin. 

r l hen came the feast of St. Vincent, on the eve 
of which our good Mother Martha gave us an in 
struction on devotion to the Saints, and especially 
to Our Liidy. which made me so long to see the 
Blessed Virgin that I went to bed convinced that 
this same night I would sec my dear Mother. 

1 To each of us had been given, as a relic, a piece 
of linen of St. Vincent s surplice. I had cut mine 
in half and swallowed it, and at last fell asleep with 
the thought that St. Vincent would obtain for me 
what I so longed for. At half-past eleven I heard 
myself called. 4 Sister, Sister, Sister ! Waking up, 
1 drew the curtain, and looking out towards the 
corridor side I saw there a child of four or live years 
of age, dressed in white, who said to me, Come to 
the chapel the Blessed Virgin is waiting for you. 
The thought that I would be heard and prevented 
from going kept me from rising, but the child said, 
4 Do not be afraid; it is half-past eleven, and every 
one is fast asleep. Come, I am waiting for you. 

" I (jiiiekly dressed myself, and went with the 
child, who stood waiting at the head of my bed. He 
followed me-, or rather, I followed him, for he kept 
at my left side. The lamps were lighted everywhere 
we passed. This astonished me very much; but I 
was even more surprised when I saw the door of 
the chapel open as soon as the child touched it ; but 

Sister Catherine Labour^ 

my astonishment was greatest of all when I saw the 
candles and lamps shining in a way which recalled 
to my memory the midnight Mass. Nevertheless, I 
did not see the Blessed Virgin. 

4 The child led me up to the sanctuary, beside the 
armchair of the Father-Director, and then I knelt 
down, while the child remained standing at the back. 
As I found the time long. I looked up to see if the 
watchers (i.e., the Sisters who were named for the 
night nursing) passed through the tribune. 

" At last the moment came. The child warned 
me, saying, The Blessed Virgin is coming; here she 
is. I heard the sound as of the rustling of a silk 
robe coming from the side of the tribune, near the 
picture of St. Joseph, and the Blessed Virgin came 
and sat in the armchair, like that of St. Anne, though 
otherwise there w r as no resemblance. [The Sister 
alludes to the picture of St. Anne, which is still to 
be seen above the sacristy door.] 

" At first, I doubted if it were really the Blessed 
Virgin I saw, though the child had said, The Blessed 
Virgin is coming. It w r ould be impossible for me 
to say how inwardly convinced I felt that it was not 
the Blessed Virgin I saw, when suddenly the child 
spoke, no longer as a child, but as a strong man with 
stern, words. Looking again at the Blessed Virgin, 
I flew to her feet, and knelt on the altar steps with 
my hands resting on her knees. . . . 

Then passed the sweetest moment of my life, which 
it is impossible to describe. She told me how to act in 
regard to my Director, and several other things that 
I may not repeat, also that in my troubles I was to 
come (pointing with her left hand to the tabernacle) 


First Apparitions 

and throw myself at the foot of the altar, and opoii 
my hciirt there, where I would reeeive till the con 
solation I would need. ... I asked her the meaning 
of what I had before seen, and she explained it all to 
me. . . . She then said: * My child, Almighty (iod 
wills to entrust a mission to you. You will have much 
to sul ler. but you will be able to bear it, by remember 
ing that you are working for the glory of God. You 
will rccogni/e what comes from God, and you will be 
uneasy until you have told it to him who has charge 
of directing you. You will be contradicted, but 
fear nothing, for you will be strengthened. Tell 
your Director everything, fearlessly, w;i i confidence 
and simplicity. You will see certain things; give- an 
account of them exactly as you will be inspired in 
your prayers. 

" " Times are very bad. Misfortunes will fall on 
France - -the throne will be abolished the entire world 
will be convulsed by misfortunes of all kinds (the 
Blessed Virgin looked very sad when saying that); but 
come to the loot of this altar, whence graces wii! be 
shed on all who will ask with confidence and IVrvour; 
they will fall both on the great and on the little. 

" My child, I love to bestow my favours in a 
special manner on this community, which I love- so 
much. I am sad; there- are great abuse s, the rule 
is not observed, regularity is wanting, and there is 
a great relaxation in the two communities. Tell him 
who directs you that, though he will not be Superior, 
he will one day be charged in a particular manner with 
the community, and he is to do his utmost to restore 
the rule in all its vigour; tell him, from me, . . . 
that he must watch over useless reading, the loss of 

33 D 

Sister Catherine Laboure 

time, and the visits. When the rule will be restored 
in vigour, another community will wish to be united 
to yours. This is against the ordinary custom, but 
that community is dear to me so tell them to 
receive it. God will bless the union, and all will enjoy 
a great peace, and the community will increase. . . . 
But great misfortunes will come. The danger will 
be great, but have no fear, for Almighty God, arid St. 
Vincent, will protect the community . . . (the Blessed 
Virgin was still sad), and I myself will be with you; 
1 have always watched over you; I will grant you 
man) favours. . . . The moment will come when all 
will seem to be lost; then I shall be with you; have 
confidence. You will recognize my presence, and 
the protection of God, and of St. Vincent, over the 
two communities. . . . 

" But it will not be so with the other communities; 
they will have victims . . . (the Blessed Virgin had 
tears in her eyes when saying this to me). 

" Among the clergy in Paris there will be many 
victims. . . . His Grace the Archbishop will die. My 
child, the cross will be despised, blood will flow in 
the streets (here the Blessed Virgin could no longer 
speak; her face showed her sorrow). My child, she 
then said to me, the whole world will be in sorrow. 

" At these words I thought, When will it be ? and 
I understood clearly Forty years and ten, and after 
that peace. . . ." 

"I do not know how long I stayed there; all I 
know is that when she left, it seemed as if some 
light was extinguished, or rather as if a shadow 
vanished, by the side of the tribune, in the same 
direction as she had come. 


First Apparitions 

kk I rose from the altar steps and saw the child 
standing where I had left him. and he said, k She has 
gone-. \Ve went back again by the same way as we 
had come, which was still brilliantly lighted, and 
the child still at my left side. 1 believe it was my 
Guardian Angel, who became visible in order to lead 
me to the Blessed Virgin, because I had so often 
begged him to obtain this favour for me. lie was 
dressed in white, carrying a marvellous light with 
him that is to say, he was shining brightly, and 
seemed about four or five years of age. Having gone 
back to bed. I heard the clock strike two; I did not 
go to sleep again." 

It was the morning of July 19, 1830. a day of 
special triumph to France. Who can be astonished 
if under such circumstances Father Aladel looked 
upon these sad communications of Sister Catherine 
as mere dreams ? 

It was not long, however, before he was convinced 
of their reality, for a few days later, on July 27, the 
Revolution she had predicted broke out. 

During thai disastrous time Sister Laboure did 
not cease to reassure Father Aladel, saying that the 
two families of St. Vincent had nothing to fear from 
the storm, and lhat they would not perish. 

It is true St. Lazare was not exempted from 
domiciliary visits, but these alarms only served to 
verify the protection which had been promised. One- 
day a band of Communists, led by a child of fourteen 
years of age. noisily demanded admittance, in order, 
they said, to seize the arms which the child kept 
shouting he had seen brought in. The Superior- 
General, Father Salhorgne, who fearlessly wore his 


Sister Catherine Labour^ 

soutane, went to the door to meet them, and tried 
to reason with the child, telling him that there was 
not a single weapon in the house. Not succeeding 
in quieting the boy, he said at last: 

Well, my child, do you want to see my arms ?" 

c Yes, sir, show them," was the reply, and Father- 
General showed him his breviary. 

" Now would you like to see my bullets ?" and 
opening the book he showed the pictures that were 
in it. 

" Oh ! Father ! Pictures !" cried the boy i n delight. 

; Do you want one ?" said Father Salhorgne. 

" Oh yes, Father !" cried the lad, who then went 
off triumphantly with the picture, followed by the 
whole band. 

Another day Father Aladel saw an immense crowd 
opposite St. Lazare, and was told that they had come 
to pull down the cross which was over the chapel. 
He courageously faced them and asked what right 
they had to intrude on other people s property, and 
to insult thus the sacred sign of their redemption. 
Then he gave notice to the official in command at the 
neighbouring police-station, who immediately sent 
out a sufficient force to stop the odious sacrilege. 

Our Blessed Lady seems to have sometimes revealed 
things to Sister Catherine, expressly in order to re 
assure Father Aladel in regard to the truth of the 

Thus one day after confession Sister Laboure told 
him that a Bishop would beg for refuge at St. Lazare, 
that he could receive him without fear, and that his 
life would be saved. Father Aladel did not pay 
much attention to this prediction, but walked back 


First Apparitions 

to St. Lazarc, anxiously preoccupied with the thought 
of the general disasters. On his arrival he was 
surprised to hear that Monsignor Frayssinous, 
Bishop of ITcrmopolis, and Minister of Public Worship 
under Charles X., had just been there, asking for a, 
place of refuge, and that they had advised him to 
go to St. (rennain. where he would be quite safe. 

These different revelations bore a seal of truth 
which it was difficult to discredit, and, though he 
still pretended to pay no attention, Father Aladel 
began to listen to them with the deepest interest, 
feeling that the Spirit of God was really acting in 
his young penitent. 

Another prediction was fulfilled in 1850. In that 
year the Community of the Sisters of Charity, founded 
in the United States by Mother Seton. was united to 
that of St. Vincent de Paul, according to Our Lady s 
desire. This union," writes Kleanor C. Donnelly, 
in the w Life of Sister Mary Gonzago Grace," " had 
first been proposed and contemplated by the Holy 
Foundress at Emmitsburg in 1810; and arrangements 
had actually been made, at that date, to send a 
detachment of Sisters from France to form the new 
community in St. Joseph s Valley to the spirit of 
the French Sisters of Charity. Owing, however, to 
obstacles thrown in the way of the project by the 
Government of Bonaparte, the French Sisters could 
not obtain passports to America, and the pious 
enterprise had to be abandoned. 

All through the year 1849 the project of the 
affiliation was actively discussed. Sister Gon/ago 
was warmly in favour of the movement, and worked 
earnestly in her own sphere to bring it about. 


Sister Catherine Laboure 

;c Early in the year of grace 1850, the union of 
the Emmitsburg Sisters with the French Sisters of 
Charity was definitely and decisively effected; and 
on March 25, 1850, our Sisters renewed their vows 
for the first time with the formula used by the Society 
of St. Vincent de Paul. 

" The Emmitsburg Sisterhood signalized that year 
the feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed 
Virgin (December 8) by assuming the ancient habit 
and white cornette (or peculiar headgear) of St. Vin 
cent s original Daughters of Charity, founded in 
1633 by Louise de Marillac (Mile. Le Gras)." 

But what was the meaning of the words " Forty 
years and ten. and after that peace " ? 

" Misfortunes will fall on France," Our Lady had 
said. "We have only to turn in thought from 1830 
to 1870-71, and to cast our eyes on Paris at that 
time," writes an English author, " to see the accom 
plishment of this prophecy to the letter." 

During the Commune the members of several 
communities and of the clergy in Paris even the 
Archbishop, Mgr. Darboy were put to death, and 
the streets were filled with blood. 

But the words " and ten, and after that peace," 
need an explanation. If the first period " forty years " 
was 1870, the second period " and ten," would be 
1880, and so it was thought by many that as nothing 
extraordinary seemed to happen that year, Sister 
Catherine had been mistaken. Though such errors 
would not in the least detract from the holiness 
of the servant of God, for it is a case of " revelations 
of subjects in no way connected with the sanctifica- 
tion of the soul, and which are of no spiritual value; 


First Apparitions 

consequently God would not interfere in any way to 
preserve from error," yet there is another interpreta 
tion, wliieh seems to eoineide better with the words 
of the Blessed Virgin. 

An era of religions perseeution by the Government 
began in 1SSO. The time of peace which had been 
predicted was absolutely undetermined, and Sister 
Catherine followed the words u " and after that peace " 
with many dashes, as if to accentuate the mysterious 
character of the revelation which only the future can 
make known. 

The apparition we have related was, however, only, 
as it were, a preparation for the mission which was 
about to be confided to Sister Catherine, or, rather, 
it was but the dawn of the celestial graces which 
she was to receive from Our Lady, and distribute 
throughout the world. 


NOVEMBER 27, 1830. 

CHAPTER III: Manifestation 
of tJie Blessed Virgin, 
November 27, 1830 

" Ami a irreat si<>;n appeared in Heaven: a woman clothed with 
the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown 
of twelve -tars."- Awe. xii. 1. 

IT was in the following terms that on August 15, 
1841. Sister Catherine Laboure began one of the 
accounts of the Manifestation of the Blessed 
Virgin l<- her in 1830. 

To-day is the feast of the Assumption of the 
Blessed Virgin Mary. () Queen ! thou who art 
seated on the throne of God, listen favourably to 
my prayer. For thee and for thy greater glory I 
beg thee to enlighten me and give me strength and 
courage in what I am going to do. It seems to be 
once more, that much-longed-for Saturday, the eve 
of the first Sunday in Advent . . . when I felt 
convinced that I should see her again " (i.e.. the 
Blessed Virgin), " beautiful in her excessive beauty, 
and in thai hope I lived." 

" Beautiful in the excessive beauty of her 
royal splendour, the " Mother most admirable " was 
about to explain to Catherine the mysterious words 
of the first apparition, " My child. Almighty God 


Sister Catherine Labour^ 

wishes to confide a mission to you," and to manifest 
herself to the whole world as 

" The Promised Land the priestly lot, 
Holy and free from sin s primeval blot." 

(" Terra es benedicta et sacerdotalis, sancta et immunis eulpai 
originalis." 1 ) 

The importance of the manifestation of Novem 
ber 27, 1830, obliges us to examine it carefully and 
in detail. In order, therefore, to proceed methodi 
cally and clearly, we will first give an account of 
the apparition; secondly, establish its objective 
reality and supernatural truth; and thirdly, we will 
sketch the principal traits of Our Lady s symbolism. 

The history of the manifestation of November 27, 
1830, is easy to relate, because of the writings of 
Sister Catherine at various times, as well as her 
verbal declarations, which have been gathered from 
trustworthy witnesses. 

Sister Catherine expresses herself as follows in the 
different accounts which her confessor demanded. 

" On November 27 ? 1830, being the Saturday 
before the first Sunday of Advent, at half-past five 
in the evening, after the point of meditation had 
been read, it seemed to me that in the midst of the 
great stillness I heard a noise like the rustle of a silk 
gown, at the tribune side, near the picture of St. 
Joseph. Looking that way, I saw the Blessed Virgin 
in a robe of silk, the colour of the dawn. Over her 
head, falling on each side to her feet, was a white 
veil, beneath which her hair was banded with a little 
narrow lace. Her feet rested on a globe, or rather 
1 " Little Office of the Immaculate Conception." 


Manifestation of the Blessed Virgin 

half a globe at least, 1 only saw half of it; in her 
hands she held, surmounted with a gold cross, a 
ball, which represented the world. Her eyes were 
raised towards Heaven. Her face was radiant with 
beauty. Then, all at once, I noticed on her lingers, 
rings, lull of precious stones, the larger shedding 
the most brilliant rays, and the smaller 1 ainter rays, 
but each ray became bigger as it fell on to the 
globe- beneath, so that I could no longer see her 

; To tell you all I learnt and felt at the moment 
Our Lady offered the globe to Our Lord, is- quite 
beyond my power; but while I was gazing at her an 
interior voice- seemed to say, These rays are the 
symbols of the favours Our Lady sheds on all who 
ask. The stones from which no rays come symbolize 
the graces unasked. Then Our Lady lowered her 
eyes and looked at me. and the voice again explained 
to me, ; This globe represents the whole world, France 
in particular, . . .and each person individually. . . . 
I cannot express all I then experienced, and what I 
saw. the beauty and radiance were so great. . . . The 
words. It is a symbol of the graces which I shed on 
all who ask me made me realize all at once how 
much we ought to pray to Our Lady, how generous she 
is to all who have recourse to her, what graces she 
sheds on all who ask. and what joy she feels in 
bestowing t hem. 

" I do not know whether at that moment I was 
in Heaven or on earth ! but there appeared, round 
Our Lady, a small oval on which was written in 
letters of gold, these words: 4 O MANY, CONCEIVKI) 



Sister Catherine Laboitre 

THEE ; and the voice said : Strike a medal after this 
model. All who wear it will receive great graces, 
especially if they wear it suspended round the neck. 
Graces will be showered on all who wear it with confi 
dence. . . . Then the oval seemed to turn and I saw 
the other side of the Medal." 

On the other side of the Medal Sister Catherine saw, 
as Father Aladel afterwards related, " the monogram 
of the Blessed Virgin, composed of the letter M, 
surmounted by a cross with a bar at its base, and 
under this letter M, were the two Hearts of Jesus 
and Mary, which she recognized because one was 
surrounded by a crown of thorns, and the other 
pierced by a sword." 1 The twelve stars, which have 
always been represented on the miraculous medals, 
were probably included in the Sister s first account 
of the apparition to her Confessor. 

" Ail disappeared," wrote Sister Catherine, " as if 
a light were extinguished, leaving me filled with 
joy and consolation." 

Father Aladel having asked her if anything had 
been written on the reverse side, she said she had 
seen no writing at all on it. 

Well," replied the priest, " ask the Blessed Virgin 
what she wishes to be put." Sister Catherine obeyed, 
and after many prayers heard one day, during the 
meditation, the interior voice saying, " The M and 
the two Hearts say enough." 

This manifestation was often repeated duiing the 
twenty months Catherine was in the seminary. Our 
Blessed Mother appeared during Mass or during 
meditation, each time over the Tabernacle. She only 

1 " Depositions of M. Aladel and M. Etienne." 

4 6 


Manijcstation of llic Blessed Virgin 

spoke (>! it . however. 1 hi cc t lines to Failu T Aladcl on 
account of his reproaches Tor her credulity ai.d his 
order not to ad ye it to I ht in. Hut even he r conslajit 
obedience to all his commands, which he aftei -wards 
attested, had not the pow( r to ei lace so sweet a 

The sincerity of Sister Catherine in relating her 
visions is so evident that it has never been seriously 
contested. As u matter of fact, it would be- im 
possible to think that a country girl, so isolated and 
so simply educated, could possibly have invented 
and described as she eliel every eletail of the apparition 
or formulate the- invocation to be put on the Medal. 
Resides, it would be quite impossible to assign to her 
any motive for so doing, for she exacted a formal 
promise- from her Director that he- would never 
mention her name-, even when the promulgation of 
the Medal would make the fact public. Whenever 
she spoke there was something which seemed to reveal 
her sincerity. All who met Sister Catherine were 
struck both by her evident purity and sincerity. 
"Ihr calm lace bore the seal of modesty, her clear 
blue eyes that of candour," wrote one of those who 
kne w her best. 

Many > ears after the apparition it happened at 
recreation that a young Sister half jestingly remarked 
that probably the Sister, who thought she- had 
seen the Ulcsscd Virgin in ls.*30. had in reality only 
seen a picture 1 . 

w My dear," replied Sister Catherine, in such a 
severe tone that all those present could never forget 
the exact words she use-el. * the Sister who saw 
the- HlcsM-d Virgin s; \v her in ilesh and blood 


Sister Catherine Laboure 

as really as you and I are," and immediately the 
conversation changed to another subject, without 
the great secret being at all betrayed. 

It is clear that Sister Catherine s sincerity cannot 
be doubted, and that she could be under any illusion 
of sight or hearing or suffering from mystical hallu 
cination is equally out of the question. 

A curious argument in her favour is that Sister 
Catherine used to warn others against imaginary 
visions or unreal miracles. 

I must tell you," she wrote in one of her letters 
in 1844, " that I was pained in seeing that in all your 
letters you speak of miracles as if Almighty *God 
works them recklessly; as if wretched creatures like 
us could expect that God will bestow special miracles 
on us ! You describe one as happening when you 
left the community. Alas ! God knows if that 
was one ! Did Our Lord, the Blessed Virgin, or any 
of the Saints publish their miracles ? Where is our 
humility ? It is far behind theirs, or rather we have 
none at all." 

One more witness of the humility, obedience, and 
strength of will in Sister Catherine is the report of 
the Promoter in the Canonical Inquest, which runs 
as follows: 

" Persuaded that her Director only looked upon 
the vision winch she related to him as a play of her 
imagination, and that he absolutely refused to believe 
in it, the Sister, though assured of its reality, and 
not daring to mention it again to her Director, 
nevertheless confided what occurred to no one else. 
A soul less strong or subject to the caprices 
of sensitiveness would not have refrained from 

Manifestation of the Blessed Virgin 

carrying the question to other less inflexible 

In fact it was only the want of education which hid 
the lucid, clear, and strong intelligence of Sister 
Catherine. Eveiyone would be convinced of this 
merely by the examination of the account-book ol 
receipts and expenses belonging to the work with 
\\hich she ^as charged at the Hospice of Engine!.. 
The unworn cover of the book which was in constant 
use from 1S-KJ to 1S75. the regularity of her notes, 
the firmness and plainness of her handwriting, and 
figures, would, if we let pass the spelling, which was 
always her dillieulty. be approved by any inspector. 

\\ e must now turn aside for a short time and 
examine the principal traits and the glorious privileges 
which adorn Our Blessed Mother and are symbolized 
by the Miraculous Medal. 

First, it is the symbol of the Immaculate Concep 
tion, and of the triumph of the Mother of God over 
the Devil. Our Lady appeared to Sister Catherine 
as the new Eve, whose feet were victoriously set on 
the head of the- serpent, and the words, " O Mary, 
conceived without sin," proclaimed her Immaculate 
Concept ion. 

"The most terrible of all the enemies which God 
has set up against the devil," says Blessed Grignon 
de Mont fort, ci is His holy Mother Mary. He has 
inspired her, even since the days of the earthly 
Paradise, though she existed then only in His idea, 
with so much hatred against that accursed enemy of 
God, so much industry in unveiling the malice of 
that old serpent, with so much power to conquer, 
to overthrow and to crush that proud impious rebel, 

4 J E 

Sister Catherine Labour^ 

that he fears her, not only more than all the angels 
and men, but, in some sense, more than God Him 
self." 1 

Secondly, it is the symbol of Our Lady s all- 
powerful intercession in Heaven both as to manner 
and extent. The reality and subordination of her 
intercession is symbolized by the little gold cross, 
the Cross of Jesus Christ which surmounts the globe 
Our Lady holds, and for which she offers her prayers 
and merits. " This," says Father A. Fiat in his 
" Circular to the Priests of the Mission," " she clearly 
indicates to us, in her two different attitudes during 
her manifestation to Catherine Laboure; that of a 
supplicant who, holding the world in her hand and 
enkindling it near her heart, implores Divine Mercy 
on its behalf; and that of a Queen, whose hands 
outstretched and filled with gifts inflame our con 
fidence." 2 

The extent of Our Lady s all-powerful intercession 
is symbolized by the little cross of gold which sur 
mounts the globe, as well as by the words, " My 
child, this globe represents the entire world." 

" The eternal Father," Father Gallwcy says, " does 
not repent of His gifts to her, for in Him there is 
no shadow of change. * The gifts of God are without 
repentance (Rom. xi. 29). Therefore the eternal 
Father reverences, respects, and ratines every pre 
rogative given to the Blessed Mother. If, then, 
supreme as He is, He does not raise her to the dignity 
of her maternity till she in all humility pronounces 

1 "A Treatise on True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin," trans 
lated by Father Faber. 

2 Father A. Fiat, " Circular to the Priests of the Mission." 


Manifestation of llie Blessed Virgin 

her word of consent. Fiat, so neither does He 
without her full participation, consent, and con 
currence, carry out His wish, not to spare His only 
Son, but to deliver Him up for men." And neither 
does He exclude her concurrence in the lesser 
operations of His grace. 

Finally, the monogram surmounted by a cross. 
and the two Hearts, both, bearing the emblems of 
the Passion, symbolize Our Blessed Mother s share 
in the redemption of the world. 

" A.s to the cross of Jesus Christ. Mary had in it 
such a share that, from the birth of her Divine Son 
until His death, she felt the very same blows that He 
suffered, not only from men but also from (iod. 

"Jesus Christ sacrificed Himself upon the cross, 
by giving Himself up to all I he severity of the Divine 
Justice. Mary sacrificed herself, and more than 
herself, by sacrificing Jesus Christ, and consenting to 
the accomplishments of the designs of (iod for the 
redemption of the human race in such a manner 
ihat the greatest sacrifices of the spiritual life are 
incomparably less than hers, both in extent and in 
depth, and on account of the depth of sorrow which 

she felt." 1 

In his encyclical for the Jubilee of the Immaculate 
Conception His Holiness Pope Pius X. says: " Hence 
that uninterrupted community oi life and labours 
of the Son and the Mother, so that to both might be 
applied the words of the Psalmist. My life is wasted 
with grief, and my years in sighs (Ps. xxx. 10). 
And when the last hours of the Son had come. there 
stood by the cross of Jesus His Mother, not merely 
1 " Manual for Interior SouK." b Fatln r Gron. S.J. 

Sister Catherine Laboure 

engaged in the contemplation of the cruel spectacle, 
but, surely, rejoicing that her only begotten was 
offered for the salvation of mankind, and so fully 
participating in His sufferings that, if it had been 
possible, she would have most gladly endured all the 
torments that were borne by her Son. But from 
this communion of sufferings and of will between 
Mary and Christ, she merited to become most worthily 
the Restorer of the lost world, and the Dispenser 
of all the gifts that Jesus purchased for us by His 
death and by His Blood. 

" A great sign thus the Apostle St. John 
describes a vision divinely sent him appeared in 
Heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, and the 
moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of 
twelve stars. (Apoc. xii. 1.) Everyone knows that 
this woman signified the Virgin Mary, the unsullied 
one who brought forth our Head. The Apostle con 
tinues, And being with child, she cried, travailing in 
birth, and was in pain to be delivered. (Apoc. xii. 2.) 
John therefore saw the most holy Mother of God 
already in the enjoyment of eternal happiness, and 
3^et travailing in a mysterious childbirth. What 
birth was it ? Assuredly, the birth of us who, still 
detained in exile, are yet to be brought forth to the 
perfect charity of God and to eternal happiness. 
And the pangs of labour indicate the love and desire 
with which the Virgin, in her heavenly seat, watches 
over us, and strives with unceasing prayer to bring 
about the fulfilment of the number of the elect." 

The Immaculate Conception, the all-powerful inter 
cession, and the ineffable co-redemption, thus sym 
bolized by the Miraculous Medal, are all expressed 


Manifestation of the Blessed Virgin 

in the one word " priesthood," the dignity of which 
is in a iny.sticiil manner applicable to Our Lady. 
Though she had not the sacramental character ol 
Holy Orders a,nd could not consecrate the Body and 
Hlood of her Son. yet she is filled with the dignity 
and grace the sacrament possesses and participates 
both in the priesthood and in the sacrifice of Jesus, 
as much as is possible- to a creature . 

St. Thomas Aquinas says: "The (rue oflice of the 
priest is to he mediator between (iod and man." and 
if we read the Epistle to the Hebrews, at the same 
time keeping in mind the infinite distance between 
the Man-God and a creature, we will see that t In 
distinctive marks of Jesus, priest and pontiff, may 
be applied to the Blessed Virgin. 

" For it was fitting that we should have such a 
priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from 
sinner^, and made higher than the heavens. 

" Now of the things which we have spoken, this 
is the sum: We have such a high-priest, who is set 
on the right hand of the throne of majesty in the 

" A minister of the holies, and of the true taber 
nacle, which tin- Lord hath pitched, and not man. 

" Whereby lie is able- to save for ever them that 
come to (iod by Him always living to make inter 
cession for us. 

" Who needeth not daily (as other priests) to offer 
sacrifices, first, for His own sins and then for the 
peoples, for this He did once, in offering Himself." 1 

In the " Watches of the Passion " it is said: " We 
find our Blessed Saviour sacrificing not only His own 

1 Kpistlr to the Hebrew^ vii. ~i(\\ viii. 1, 2: vii. J5. J7. 


Sister Catherine Laboure 

Body, but her soul also; not only making Himself the 
Victim, but with far greater cost to His own Heart, 
making her also a joint victim with Himself, uniting 
her to Himself in the condition of victim. And this 
is not all, for if she is suffering with Him as victim, 
she is also quite as fully sharing in His priestly work 
of offering the sacrifice to the Eternal Father. 
Abbot Arnold writes : One and the same was the 
will of Christ and of Mary. One and the same their 
holocaust. Both were offering sacrifice together to 
God; she, in the blood of her heart, He in the Blood 
of His Body." 

During the first centuries of Christianity the idea 
of Mary partaking in the sacrifice of her Divine Son 
was fully realized; artists at that time always repre 
senting her in her sacerdotal worship, close to her 
dying Son, and offering Him to God for the salvation 
of the w r orld. Later on, this idea seemed to fade 
little by little, and our Lady was even represented 
fainting at the foot of the cross. This is an absolutely 
false conception of her priestly dignity both at the 
foot of the cross and in Heaven. 

Near the body of Blessed Leonard of Port-Maurice, 
exposed to the veneration of the faithful in Rome, 
is an autograph letter, treating of the mystery of the 
Immaculate Conception. It says that when the true 
light of this great truth shall shine in all its grandeur, 
a period of repose and peace will spread throughout 
the world. Father Gratry, to whose writing we owe 
the above account, says that even if we do not believe 
in this prophecy, we cannot help being interested in 
what it foretells namely, that the world would not 
always remain in its present state of confusion; that 


Manifestation of the Blessed Virgin 

man would proclaim throughout the world peace, 
justice, and truth: that the progress of Christianity 
would lead to the tranquillity of the whole world; 
and that this progress depends on the knowledge, 
and application to its full extent, of devotion to 
Our Lady. 

It helps us to realize in what this full extent of 
devotion to Our Lady consists, when we recall to 
mind the symbols of the manifestations of 18oO. 

Having now considered the symbolism chosen by 
our Blessed Mother, we must see how the Miraculous 
Medal was struck and how it spread throughout the 




CHAPTER IV: The Miraculous 
Medal (1830-1842 

" l a-1 on all \vho \\ear th\ iiicdal, 

.Mo I her. jiiNt our ^ la nee of lo\ r ; 
.May it be a shield to iMiartl us 
In the li.Ljht for Heaven above/ 

WHEN IUT time in the seminary was over, 
Sister Catherine was sent to the Hospice 
of Knghieii and Orleans, which had been 
founded in 1811) by the Duchess of Bourbon in 
memory of her sen the Duke of Enghicn, as a refuge 
for old women, and where, later on. were also 
admitted the convalescent patients of the hospitals 
in Paris and old servants from the Houses of Orleans 
and de C Onde. 

Ik-fore going to her new destination Sister Catherine 
was told to stay for a few days in one of the large 
establishments under the- care of the community in 

Hearing of this Father Aladel made a pretext to 
call and s< e the Sisters, but in reality his object was 
to observe his young penitent more closely. 

The rumour of the visions had already spread, 
and it was also known that Father Aladel was aware 
of all the de-tails; consequently, when he arrived, all 
the Sisters surrounded him, begging for news, and 


Sister Catherine Laboure 

pressing him with questions. " The Sister who had 
had the vision," he related afterwards, " was present. 
How was I to reply without either showing any 
embarrassment on my part, or causing betrayal on 
hers ? Confiding in Our Lady s help, I told them 
all, and I had to admire the way in which the 
young Sister, to whom I feared to be the cause of 
trouble, joined as naturally and freely as the others 
in the conversation, just as if it were a question 
of some unknown person. Then I realized that the 
secret, kept by us two, was pleasing to the Lord, 
and that He blessed the humble silence in which she 
resolved to remain hidden." 

We shall see later how faithfully he kept her secret. 

When she went to Enghien, her hidden life, in the 
kitchen of w T hich she had charge, helped her to con 
tinue to hide her heavenly favours. The following 
letter from Marie Louise, received by her in August, 
1831, is full of recommendations and counsels, which 
are suitable to anyone at the beginning of the com 
munity life, and show that the writer had not the 
least idea of the special graces accorded to her sister. 


I received your welcome letter, which gave 

* " c5 

me great pleasure, as well as that of your worthy 
Superior; tell her how grateful I am for the interest 
she takes in you, and you, dear, try to show your 
gratitude by your good conduct. Indeed I know 
well that you will never give her trouble, but that 
is not enough; you must also give her great consola 
tion by doing all your work with simplicity, joy, 
diligence, and earnestness. All those qualities are 


77/6 Miraculous Medal 

very necessary to us. and if we do not possess them 
we must obtain them through prayer and practice. 
A Sister of Charity who is filled with charity is friendly 
to all. gives pleasure 1 to all around, so that they say 
to themselves, "There is a true picture of (iod! 
What humility! What compassion! What good 
ness! and then to themselves they add, If (iod. 
in His feeble creatures, shows Himself so good, what 
must !> His own infinite perfections ! 

How happy arc 1 the Daughters of Charity who 
have some likeness to (iod ! lie will never disown 
them, never be unmindful of them. We must ask 
ourselves, dear /oc. if we have any likeness to our 
Divine Master. I fear we must own that we are but 
bad imitations. What must we do? Well, let us 
not be discouraged but let us confess our incapacity 
and weakness, and say, O my (iod. see how little 
1 am capable of! but I offer Thee my good will, and 
the good intentions which Thou hast given me. I 
beg Thee to complete Thy work, and not to permit 
me to be an obstacle to it. 

"Now is the time to accustom yourself to the 
duties of our holy state. To succeed in this, we 
must not direct ourselves, because we are blind to 
our own conduct, and thus leave good to follow evil. 
However. I do not feel afraid of your doing this, for 
you are in good hands, having a Superior in whom 
you confide, and companions whose experience will 
help you. I am so grateful to (iod for this. . . . and 
am sure you will not abuse this great help, (live my 
respect ful love to your Superior, and to your dear com 
panions, and to you I send my earnest wish for your 
obedience, frankness, and kindness to all around. . . . 


Sister Catherine Laboure 

" My companions send you a thousand messages 
and beg your prayers. Pray for me also, as I do 
for you, and believe in the sincere love of your sister, 
who remains in Jesus and Mary, etc." 

One part of this letter must have impressed Sister 
Catherine: "My God, I offer Thee my goodwill; 
complete Thy work and do not permit me to be an 
obstacle to it." The work she was to accomplish, 
the mission of having the Medal struck and dis 
tributed, which had been confided to her, she had 
indeed to leave to the care of Divine Providence, 
for each time she spoke of it to Father Aladel he 
turned a deaf ear to her proposal, and treated 
her communications as illusions and ravings of her 
imagination. Nevertheless she followed Our Lady s 
recommendation of going to her Director, and 
though convinced that he did not believe her yet 
she never mentioned her visions to anyone else. 
This is more remarkable, as she must have felt 
saddened at the delay, especially when a few 
months later the voice, which as we have already 
said, Our Lady had told her she would continue to 
hear during her meditations, complained that the 
orders were not executed. 

" But, dear Mother, you see that he does not 
believe me," replied Sister Catherine, alluding to 
Father Aladel. Do not fear," was the reply. 
" The day will come, when he will do what I desire, 
for he is my servant, and he would not wish to dis 
please me." These words were soon verified. 

When the young priest received this communication 
he began to reflect seriously, and said to himself, 


The Miraculous Medal 

k If Mary is displeased, it cannot be with the young 
Sister, who in her position is powerless to do any 
thing, so it must be with me." The thought troubled 
him. for though a long time previously he had, in 
confidence, related these visions to Father Ktienne, 
the Procurator-General, without, of course, indicating 
Sister Catherine in the slightest way. no further step 
had been taken. 

One day, in the midst of the anxiety which he now 
felt so keenly, they had to go together to visit the 
Archbishop of Paris, Monsignor de Quelen, and he 
determined to profit by the circumstance to ask 
advice. " I had to go." he Wrote afterwards, " to 
see His Grace the Archbishop; the conversation gave 
me an opportunity of telling all the details to the 
venerable prelate , who said at once that he saw no 
objection to having the Medal struck, as it was in 
no way opposed to the Catholic Faith, but, on the 
contrary, so conformable to the devotion of the faith 
ful towards Our Lady that it would, consequently, 
contribute to her honour; and that he hoped to 
receive one of the first made/ 4 

A question, however, arose which caused delay. 
Towards the end of each apparition the globe Our 
Lady held disappeared, and she extended her hands, 
as if to shed abroad the graces obtained by her 
supplication. Which attitude should be represented ? 

The 2,000 Medals which were first struck were sent 
at the end of June to Father Aladel. When Sister 
Catherine received one from his hands, she said, 
k Now it must be propagated." Monsignor de 
Quelen, the first to authorize its being struck, was 
also the first to realize its power. He was at that 


Sister Catherine Laboure 

time anxious about Monsignor de Pradt, the con 
stitutional Bishop, who had proved, so far, obstinate 
in his rebellion against the Church, and who now 
lay dangerously ill. 

Arming himself with one of the Medals of Mary 
Immaculate, the Archbishop determined to go to 
visit him, and, if possible, urge him to reconciliation 
with the Church. At first he was absolutely refused 
admittance, but soon after the dying man, sending 
an apology, begged him to come again. As soon as 
he entered the room Monsignor de Pradt confessed 
his errors, and publicly retracted them. Having re 
ceived the last Sacraments, he died that same night, 
in the arms of the Archbishop, who, overjoyed at this 
manifest help of the Blessed Virgin, sent word 
immediately to Father Aladel. 

This was the first conversion obtained by the 
wearing of what was soon to be known as the 
" Miraculous Medal." 

No wonder, indeed, that it should be thus named, 
for there seems something supernatural in the great 
number which were at once eagerly demanded, and 
even more so in the numberless cures, both of soul 
and body, which were the result. 

The Generals of the Religious Orders eagerly 
helped to spread abroad the medals, and Pope 
Gregory XVI. not only placed it at the foot of his 
crucifix, but gave it to many as a special mark of his 
pontifical goodwill. Father Aladel, transported with 
joy at witnessing these wonders, thought it well to 
publish a short notice of its origin, and, also, for 
the glory of God, and of Mary Immaculate, to make 
known the consoling facts which had come to his 


77/6 Miraculous Medal 

knowledge. Six editions- that is, more than 110000 
copies published in less than one year, scarcely 
suilieed to satisfy the pious curiosity of the faithful. 

1 he vast correspondence which ensued brought 
Father Aladel great consolation. The accounts of the 
supernatural effects of wearing the Medal, coming 
as they did from different parts of the world, seemed, 
indeed, to be the beginning of the accomplishment 
of Our Lady s promise to shed on all her clients the 
rays of the graces she had obtained for man. 

Though the complete history of the Miraculous 
Medal does not rightly enter into the biography of 
Sister Catherine Laboure. we cannot resist mentioning 
a few facts. 

The account of the conversion of Alphonse Kalis- 
bonne- in 18 12 is well known. lie was a rich young Jew, 
lull of zeal for his own religion, and he keenly resented 
the conversion of his brotherThcodoreRatisbomic. His 
greatest friend, M. Gustave de Bussiere lived in Koine. 
and on a visit to him Alphonse Katisbonnc met his 
brother M. Theodore de Bussierc. an ardent Catholic, 
who begged him to wear the Miraculous Medal. 

" Oh. by all means if you care so much about it/ 
said M. de Halisbonne half jokingly but really much 

A few days after they happened to meet in the 
street, and decided to go for a walk together. \\\\\ 
before doing so M. de Bussiere had to go into the 
Church of St. Andrea della Fratte, to arrange about 
the funeral of a fi icnd. 

Alphonse Ratisbonne accompanied him. 

AVhat privileges Our Lady bestowed on him are best 
described in his own words to Fr. Villefort S J 


Sister Catherine Labonre 

" I had only been a moment in the church," he 
said, " when all at once I felt agitated in a way I 
cannot describe. Looking round, it seemed as if 
the whole building had disappeared except one Chapel 
where all the light had concentrated. In the midst 
of the brightness over the altar stood the Virgin 
Mary, great and radiant, full of majesty and sweetness 
exactly as she is on my Medal. An irresistible force 
drew me towards her. Then with her hand she signed 
to me to kneel down, and though she did not speak 
to me, it seemed as if she said, That is right, and I 
understood it all." 

That same day Alphonse Ratisbonne begged for 
admission into the Catholic Church. Later on, he 
founded the Order of Our Lady of Sion. 

This had happened in Rome, and soon after from 
Switzerland came an account of the extraordinary 
graces with which a Religious of Our Lady of the 
Hermits in Einsielden had been favoured. One day 
after Holy Communion she saw Our Lord with a 
sword in His hand seated on a throne of glory. 

" Where art thou going, and what art thou seeking ?" 
He said to her. 

" O Jesus," she answered, "I go to Thee, and I seek 
none but Thee." 

" Where dost thou seek Me ? In what way ? and 
by whom ?" 

" Lord, it is in myself I seek Thee, through Thy 
Holy Will and through Mary." 

Then Our Lady appeared, and gave her the Mirac 
ulous Medal, saying, " These rays are the symbol of 
the graces I obtain for men." 

Having shown her the other side of the Medal, 


77tc Miraculous Medal 

Our Lady said. "Wear tliis Medal and you will be 
under my special care. Let all who arc in any 
1 rouble weai 1 it. Spare- no ellorts to procure it i or 
them, lie ready, lor 1 mysell will put it round your 
neck on the 1 east of my beloved servant, Bernard. 
To-day I leave it in your hands." 

On the feast of St. Bernard. August 20th. the 
Blessed Virgin fulfilled her promise and hung the 
medal round the nun s neck, at the same time telling 
her to wear it with respect, and to recite often the 
invocation, 4i O Mary! conceived without sin, pray 
for us who have recourse to thee." 

A year later, this nun was again favoured by seeing 
daily during her retreat a Medal suspended in 
the air. The first time it was very high up. and as 
da//ling as the sun; then, a little lower down, shin 
ing as if made of pure gold. Next day. it appeared 
si ill lower and like silver; and, at last, it was very 
near the ground, and had the appearance of copper. 
The voice asked the nun which of t he aspects of the 
M dal she preferred. She naturally replied. " The 
brightest "; then the voice congratulated her on her 
choice explaining that the Medal shining like the sun 
represented those who in wearing it honour Mary 
in a perfect manner, and contribute to her glory; 
the golden one represented that worn by those who 
have a (ilial and tender devotion to Mary, but who 
do not take much trouble to promote her honour; 
the silver medal typifies those 1 who, though wearing 
it with respect and devotion, often fail in generosity 
and perseverance in their imitation of Mary s virtues; 
, ind. lastly, that which had the appearance of copper 
signified the Medal worn bv those who are satisfied 

Sister Catherine Labour^ 

by saying a few prayers without any efforts to 
follow Our Lady s example, and so they remain 
attached to the earth. The voice then added that, 
notwithstanding the difference in their virtues, all 
those who wear the Medal are united in a special 
way, and that they must assist one another by their 
prpyers, so that the third set may help the fourth to 
rise, the second sustain the third, and the first attract 
all the others to their own height. 

Another letter from Father Bore, one of the Priests 
of the Mission, who was in Constantinople during the 
Crimean War, described how he had given the Medal 
to some of the Irish soldiers and how delighted they had 
been to receive it, and that an English Catholic officer 
had told him that several of his Protestant comrades 
had accepted it gladly, and wore it with confidence. 

Sister Catherine, though overwhelmed with joy on 
hearing of all these wonders, still lived on, hidden 
from all human eyes. 

In spite of the fact that all the Bishops in France, 
as if in emulation of one another, applied to the Holy 
See for the same privileges attached to the wearing 
of the Medal as the Archbishop of Paris had obtained 
for his diocese, yet the humble Sister of Charity, 
who had been the first at the work, was absolutely 
unknown to them. 

The Archbishop, however, had since the beginning 
been very anxious to meet her, but Father Aladel 
explained to him that it was impossible, owing to her 
wish to remain unknown. " Well," said Monsignor 
de Quelen, " in that case she can put on a veil, and 
speak to me unseen." But Father Aladel could 
not yield, for, as he said, he was bound by the secret 
of confession, 


77/6 Miraculous Medal 

Even in tin- eyes oi her companions Sister Catherine 
seemed in no way dil ierent from any of the other 
Sisters, except, perhaps, possessing a little more 
power of endurance, fervour, and love for the hidden 
life. A letter of New Year s greeting to her from 
the Sister-Servant of Chatillon, where she had postu 
lated, shows this plainly. It runs as follows: 

It was with great pleasure that I received news 
from yon, my dear sister and friend. I would have 
liked to hear a better account of your health, for 
sciatica is always so painful. Having had good 
medical advice without obtaining relief shows that 
the Great Doctor wishes you to practise the remedy 
of patience and submission to His holy will. I thank 
God for the lively faith and love with which He has 
inspired you. and which will make you reap good 
fruit from your sufferings. Yes, dear sister, let us 
ask our Father, each day, for the grace to glorify 
Him in whatever state of trial He wills us to be. It 
is only in this sense that I can accept the wishes 
that you so kindly oi i er me, and which are very 
welcome, coming from you. whom I love so much; 
indeed, it is this mutual friendship which makes me 
send you. thus, my wishes for your growth in virtue. 
Remember me respectfully to your Superior, and also 
to your dear companions, assuring them of my 
friendship. You gave me real pleasure in telling me, 
in your letter, how grateful you feel to them, because 
this shows me that you have formed the true and 
holy friendship which makes community life so 
sweet. . . . 

" All my dear companions, with Sister Victoria at 


Sister Catherine Laboure 

their head, send you their good wishes, and assurance 
of their affection. Good-bye, my very dear friend. Let 
us unite to honour the Holy Childhood^of Our Saviour." 

The children of St. Vincent de Paul naturally 
longed to manifest in some way their gratitude to 
Our Lady. When, therefore, Father Aladel was 
offered a foundation near Dax, the birthplace of St. 
Vincent, where they could work on behalf of the 
celebrated pilgrimage to Our Lady of Buglose, it was 
gladly accepted. But the token of gratitude really 
desired by Providence was not merely the erection 
of the chapel, but of another monument namely, the 
establishment of the Association of the Children of 

In one of her later accounts of the apparition 
Sister Catherine wrote: " One day, I remember 
saying, Father Aladel, the Blessed Virgin has 
another mission for you, she wishes you to begin an 
Order. You are to be Founder and Director. It is 
a Confraternity of the Children of Mary. The Blessed 
Virgin will bestow many graces on it, and indulgences 
will be granted. It will be a great joy to her. 

This was the third mission entrusted to Father 
Aladel, the first having been to strike and spread the 
Miraculous Medal, and the second to work, under 
the Superior-General, at the restoration of the two 
families of St. Vincent de Paul. 

The Superior-General, Father Etienne, at his first 
audience with the Pope, earnestly solicited several 
privileges, and among them was " the power to 
establish in schools, under the Daughters of Charity, 
an Association of the Most Holy and Immaculate 


77/6 Miraculous Medal 

Virgin, with the same indulgences as had been granted 
to the Children of Mary, established at Rome lor the 
colleges under the Society of Jesus." Later he also 
solieited the power to enrol the boys in the colic 
of the Priests of the Mission, and those confide 
the care of the Sisters of Charity. 

Both of these favours the Holy Father, Pius IX. ? 
graciously bestowed and perpetuated, signing the first 
brief with his own hands. In this way was begun, 
by canonical authority, under the Priests of the 
Mission and the Sisters of Charity, the Association 
of the Children of Mary, which in its first fifty years 
numbered 400,000 members. 

\niong the earliest foundations of the Associat 
was that at the school in the Rue de Reuilly, which 
had recently been opened near, and in connection with, 
the Hospice of Enghien, where Sister Catherine was 
still living her hidden life. 

The city had spread much in that direction, and 
the new suburb had so much fallen under Protestant 
influences that the Sisters of Charity realized the 
necessity of establishing a school as soon as they 
could procure the necessary money to do so. This 
was providentially obtained. 

Together with the school they established, very 
soon, a refuge and workrooms, both tor externs and 
boarders, and a patronage for young girls. 

It was the desire both of Father Aladel and of the 
young girls that he should install there the Associa 
tion of the Children of Mary. The first reception, 
which he conducted, was a great joy to those chosen 
to be received, and also to the Sisters of Charity in 
whose care they were; but she whose joy must have 


Sister Catherine Lahoure 

been deeper than all others was Sister Catherine 
Laboure. Her interest in each of the Children of 
Mary was constantly proved. She encouraged them 
m their good conduct whenever she chanced to meet 
them in the Hospice, and often she conveyed to 
them a little pious thought. Thus, she said to 
one, on the day of her reception, " Never will 
the Blessed Virgin abandon you"; and to many, 
she taught simple and touching prayers, such as, 
" O Immaculate Mary, cover me with thy virginal 
mantle, that I may be purified, and then present me 
to Jesus, thy well-beloved Son." " O Mary Im 
maculate, the purest, holiest, and most perfect of all 
creatures, lead thy children to Heaven." When their 
time came to leave Keuilly, she would make them 
promise to recite daily the Memorare, " no matter 
how low they fell. When one of them wept, because 
she could not be received as a Sister of Charity, she 
said, " Do not cry, there have to be Sisters of Charity 
in the world, too, and you will do much good." 

Later the Sisters of Charity added to their work 
at Reuilly a night school for boys, who also benefited 
by being received into the Association. 

We must now glance at the work of the two families 
of St. Vincent, in order to realize how they were 
chosen by Providence to announce to the whole 
world the good tidings brought by Our Lady to her 
faithful servant, They were, indeed, to " be the 
Apostles, called in a special way to spread abroad 
devotion to the Immaculate Conception, just as the 
Society of Jesus, and the Community of the Visita 
tion, work daily to promote the devotion to the 
Sacred Heart. 




Families of St. I lucent de Paul 

"And it sli:ill be as a . ijr n in thy hand, and as a immorial 
before thy ryes: and that the Law of the Lord lie always in thy 
nvuth. f i- with a strong hund tlie Lord hath brought thee out of 
the land of lO^ypt." Kxon. xiii. 9. 

IX the oilice of tin- feast of the Miraculous Medal 
the Church testifies St. Vincent de Paul s love for 
Mary Immaculate, and declares that the Congre 
gation ol thc Mission has always professed the doctrine 
of the ImniacLilate Conception. The two families of 
St. \ inccnt had from the very beginning made a 
yearly act of consecration to Our Blessed I, adv. 
Besides this, Venerable Louise de Marillac had com 
posed this prayer, which is so dear to each of her 
Daughters, and repeated by them after each decade of 
the Horary: Most holy Virgin. I believe- and confess 
thy holy and Immaculate Conception, pure and with 
out stain; () most pure Virgin, by thy virginal purity, 
thy Immaculate Conception, thy glorious prerogative 
of Mother of God, obtain for me, of thy Divine Son, 
humility, charity, great purity of heart, mind, and 
body, holy perseverance in my dear vocation, the 
gift of prayer, a good life, and a happy death." 

In spite of the disasters of the- Involution, "the 
nineteenth century was a period of great growth and 


Sister Catherine Laboiire 

prosperity " to both the religious communities, accord 
ing to a writer who was well versed in all the trials that 
had been sustained, and it is easy to see that the exten 
sion and development was closely connected with the 
apparitions of their most gracious Advocate in 1830. 

Thus among the notes written at different times 
by Catherine may often be seen this exclamation: 
" The Family of St. Vincent favoured with this 
badge ! What a number of Missioners and Daughters 
of Charity !" 

At the beginning of 1789 St. Vincent s children, 
still loyal to his teachings, were working zealously 
for the poor. The Priests of the Mission were already 
well known in Poland, Spain, the Levant, Brazil, 
and Portugal, as well as in Ireland and Scotland; 
but their connection with the mother-house in Paris 
became, as we can easily understand, very much 
restricted during the Revolution, and still more so 
under the Reign of Terror. 

The Sisters of Charity had also spread abroad, and 
had worked bravely in the service of the poor; but 
for them also the effects of the Revolution were 
disastrous, and in 1830 they were only slowly rising 
from the ruins. In spite of all these difficulties, the 
community had fulfilled humbly and earnestly its 
duties in its various Houses, and God, who saw still 
in the greater number of the Daughters of St. Vincent, 
that love for the poor, and that humility, and 
simplicity, which had existed in their first Sisters, 
resolved to give them an extraordinary grace; a grace 
sufficiently powerful, first, to renew their primitive 
spirit, and afterwards to spread them abroad for the 
service of the poor. Therefore the Blessed Virgin 


T-ico Families of Sf. I r iiic<nt de Paul 

first healed their wounds, by pointing out to Sister 
Catherine the abuses which had arisen, and then 
renewed among them the desire- of living according 
to the spirit of St. Vincent. So powerfully, indeed, 
did Our Lady shed upon them her special favours 
that tlie Sisters of that time spoke in after years with 
tender feeling of the. so to speak, electric current of 
fervour which they had then felt exciting within 
tlb in that general desire of perfection that el lected 
th i re-establishment of the primitive spirit. 

Only two of the apparitions had been made known 
to them: that of the Medal, and that of the heart of 
St. Vincent; the others were 1 not made public until 
after the death of Sister Catherine; and yet everyone 
felt a new era had begun. We cannot help calling to 
mind, in thinking of Our Lady s love for the Sisters 
of Charity, the words of the cure of Ars, when he 
wa^ consulted about the community. " Oh. how the 
Hle^sed Virgin loves them! She takes special care 
of t hem always." 

It is without doubt remarkable that from 1830 
to 1S4. 5 "the Congregation of the Mission increased 
and developed, in spite of all the obstacles whicli 
seemed likely to bring about its ruin. On their part, 
tli" Sisters of Charity were still more remarkably 
favoured by a wonderful prosperity, for in the greatest 
shrines of Christendom no greater privileges were 
bestowed than in their humble chapel, consecrated by 
theaugusl presence of the Queen of Heaven, and where 
a great number of young girls, irresistibly attracted, 
went to be clothed, under the eyes of Mary Immacu 
late, in the habit of the Servants of the Poor, and 
then, as valiant soldiers, spread throughout the world, 


Sister Catherine Lahoure 

their heroism and devotedness causing great exulta 
tion to the Church, and wonder to the world." 1 

The little retreat book, kept by Sister Catherine, 
which contains her private notes, reveals her great 
desire for that complete renovation, through Mary, of 
the true spirit of St. Vincent de Paul, both in her own 
spiritual life, and in that of the whole community. 

After hearing a conference given on " the holy 
Name of Mary" (March 25, 1838), she made the resolu 
tion: " To look on her as my model; at the beginning 
of each action considering whether Mary acted thus; 
how, and why, she did so; and with what intention ! 
Oh, the Name of Mary is beautiful and consoling ! 
O Mary !" Among the notes of her retreat in 
May, 1839, are the following: "Third resolution: 
To offer myself to God without reserve, accepting 
all little trials in the spirit of humility and penance. 
If He wills my humiliation, may His holy Name be 
blessed. I offer myself entirely to Him. O Immacu 
late Heart of Mary, obtain for me the faith and love 
which led thee to the foot of the Cross of Jesus." 

Again: "We believe in Thee, O Holy Cross; we 
offer reparation to Thee; our hope is all in Thee; 
sanctify the just and convert sinners. O Mary, have 
pity on us !" 

At the end of the notes comes this fervent invoca 
tion: " O Mary ! Mary ! Mary ! pray, pray, pray for 
us poor sinners, now, and at the hour of our death. 
Mary ! O Mary !" 

When she wrote these words, was Sister Catherine 
calling to mind our Blessed Mother, holding the globe 
in her hands, raising her eyes to Heaven, and beseech- 
? " Life of M. Etienne, Superior-General," pp. 65, 66. 

7 8 


Two Families of St. I incest dc Paul 

ing God s Mercy ? This, indeed, is more than 
probable, for during that yt ar several of the notes 
written to Father Aladel show us clearly how she 
longed for a picture or a statue which would represent 
the Blessed Virgin in this attitude. 

" The statue/ slie wrote. " ought to be of ordir.ary 
height; a veil over the head falling to the feet; the 
face uncovered; she must have in her hands a golden 
ball, holding it as if she 1 were offering it to God; the 
lingers must be ornamented with precious stones, 
from most of which issue rays, descending to her feet, 
and cove-ring all below." 

She adds also, in her note, that these words should 
be put on the pedestal of the statue: " My child, this 
ball represents the entire world, particularly France, 
and each one individually. The stones which shed 
forth no rays are the graces that remain unasked." 

" Oh," she added, " how grand it will be to hear 
said by all, Mary is the Queen of the universe, of 
France in particular, and of each one individually. 
It will be a tune of peace, joy, and happiness which 
if/// last long. Her banner will be carried everywhere 
round the world."" 

Even more earnestly than she had wished for a 
picture or statue Sister Catherine longed for an altar 
to be raised in memory of the apparition. This 
desire, which seemed to come straight from Heaven, 
she expressed thus in a letter to her Director in 1841: 

" Xow I must tell you that I feel pressed, during 
the last two years, to beg you to erect an altar of 
the Blessed Virgin, in the place where she appeared. 
Xow. more than ever, 1 feel impelled to speak to 


Sister Catherine Laboure 

you about this, and to ask you also that a communion 
of thanksgiving be offered yearly by the whole com 
munity [i.e., the Sisters of Charity]. All the in 
dulgences you ask for will be granted. Ask ! Ask 
all that you desire, for all will be granted. I believe 
that God will thus be glorified, and Our Lady 
honoured, and all hearts will be filled with great 
fervour. Therefore I beg this from you, for the 
greater glory of God, and devotion to the Blessed 
Virgin; and I trust you will neglect nothing, but act 
as promptly as possible, so that it will be finished 
for the Saturday before the first Sunday in Advent. 
I beg you a thousand times to do so for the safety 
of my conscience. I feel sure Almighty God and the; 
Blessed Virgin ask it of you. I therefore beg you 
to ask for it, from Our Most Honoured Father (Father- 

" I am, in the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, 
" Your devoted and obedient child, 

"U.D. of C., S. of P.S." 1 

There was no other signature. 

The retreats of 1841 and 1842 were preached by 
Father Etienne, and one of her notes of an instruc 
tion " on our holy rule " runs as follows: 

" To observe our rules well it is necessary to have 
the spirit of our state and not keep to the letter 
alone; above all, in little things. If we do the little 
things well, we will also do the great, in imitation 
of Our Lord, whom we must take as our example. 
O Jesus ! O Mary !" 

After another conference, having for its object " the 

Unworthy Daughter of Charity, Servant of the Poor Sick. 

Two Families of St. Vincent dc Paul 

spirit of our state, and the means I must take to 
become a true Daughter of Charity," she wrote: " \\V 
must unite the oflice of Martha and Mary. O Mary, 
make me understand what is a true Daughter of 
Charity and what is the spirit of our holy rules." After 
the conference on Charity, she formed this resolution: 
To watch over myself so as not to lose the virtue 
of purity, remembering that chastity is the pearl of 
virginity, and that a Daughter of Charity cannot 
work out her salvation if she- is not pure-. In all 
temptations, or dryness, I will have recourse to 
Mary, who is purity itself. O Mary, conceived 
without sin ! 

The retreat preached by Father Aladel towards 
the end of .May, 1843, seems to have enlarged still 
more her spiritual horizon, for her prayers are no 
longer for her own spiritual progress, but for the 
whole of the two families of St. Vincent de Paul. 

"25th (Month of Mary). First Instruction: Mary 
standing at the foot of the- cross is our model. In 
all our pains we must go to the foot of the cross 
and there, after the example of Mary, leave all our 
troubles, asking through her intercession all the 
graces necessary to us." 

l 2 .Mh (Month of Mary). Mary assumed into 
Heaven ! \Yhat glory ! Seated at the right hand of 
tlu- King of kings ! What honour ! She persevered, 
therefore- she received the fruit of the Holy 
per. severance. Yes, I must persevere in good work, 
and in my good resolutions, after the example of 
Mary. Mary ascended the- throne of the adorable 
Trinity; the Kternal Father clothed her with the sun, 
placed the moon under her feet, and on her head a 

81 ( , 

Sister Catherine Labour^ 

diadem of twelve stars, and seated her on a throne 
above all others, as Queen, of the Angels and of the 
Saints. Oh, when will come the blissful moment 
when we shall enter Heaven ? What happiness will 
be ours when w r e enter there at last. O Mary !" 

It is remarkable how well, even in her private 
notes, she guarded her secret, making no allusion to 
the favours of 1830. 

" 30th (Month of Mary). On the last day of the 
month of Mary we must ofi er her a bouquet, con 
sisting of all the resolutions we have made during 
the month; renewing them all, offering them to the 
Blessed Virgin and leaving them in her sanctuary, 
that is in her Immaculate Heart, the sanctuary in 
which Our Lord willed to live. O Immaculate Heart 
of Mary, obtain for us this great grace, through the 
merits of thy dear Son." 

Then on the 31st, the last day of the month of 
Mary, appears the bouquet offered to Our Lady: 
" Resolution: Not to pass any day without practising 
some virtue in imitation of Our Lady. This will not 
be hard, since all she did and practised we can do in 
the work which our vocation gives us. O Immaculate 
Heart of Mary, obtain this great grace for the two 
families of St. Vincent." 

Father Etienne, after his election as Superior- 
General, brought about the various reforms which, 
through Father Aladel, Sister Catherine had told him 
Our Lady required. 

His first care was to restore all the original customs 
of the Congregation, and in this he was much helped 
by Mother Mazin, w r ho, when she became Mother- 
General, worked earnestly at the reforms he sug- 


7\co Families of St. Vincent de Paul 

gested. According to one of the- Sisters, " it seemed 
then us if we had returned to the time when our 
venerable Mother, Louise de Marillac, under our 
holy Founder, laid the foundations of the community. 
This twofold direction, inspired by the tender love 
of the Divine Master, was gladly followed by the 
Daughters of Charity, who unquestioningly sub 
mitted to all their desires. In the mother-house the 
fervour, recollection, and harmony which reigned 
throughout shone in all the happy faces." 

A letter written by Sister Catherine a month later 
to one who had left the community, reveals the 
reforms suggested by Father Etienne, as well as the 
faith and humility of Sister Catherine: "We must 
hope to meet again, but when ? You know that 
according to our holy rules we have no further com 
munication with anyone who leaves the community. 
Now, more than ever, fervour is renewed throughout 
the community, as in the time of St. Vincent. If 
abuses had crept in, now all is renovated." 

A few months later Father Aladel ended his earthly 
pilgrimage. He died on April 25, 18G5, the thirty- 
fifth anniversary of the translation of the relies of 
St. Vincent. It is believed that he offered himself 
as a victim to obtain the cure of Father Ktienne, 
then lying dangerously ill at Dax, thus renewing the 
heroic act which had been made formerly by Father 
Dufour for St. Vincent. The look of calm happiness 
that, at his funeral, shone on Sister Catherine s face 
was remarked and commented on by many, but the 
explanation is easy now. How well she must have 
realized that the humble priest, so often spoken of 
as a " second beloved Apostle St. John," and as 


Sister Catherine Labour? 

" another St. Bernard," who had been chosen by 
God to guide her, to spread abroad the Miraculous 
Medal, and to work for the restoration of the two 
families of St. Vincent, could not be eternally lost. 
As for herself, she could not grieve much at the 
thought of a short separation, for in a few years 
more she too would fly towards Heaven after having 
given, both to angels and to men, the example of a 
true Daughter of Charity. 


(1800 1870) 

CHAPTER VI : A True Sister 
of Charity (1866-1876) 

- Hy two wind s is man lifted above earthly things vi/., by 
simplicity and urity." " IMIT." ii. 4. 

WHILST the Priests of the Mission and the 
Sisters of Charity were spreading abroad 
the Miraculous Medal, and rekindling devo 
tion to Our Lady among all with whom they came in 
contact. Sister Catherine was leading her hidden life 
at Knghien. 

A Sister, in one of her letters, thus refers to her 
after her death: "Having passed six years with 
Sister Catherine, and having worked for a whole year 
in oiliee with her, it might reasonably be supposed 
that I could give a great number of details, full of 
interest and edification; but I myself am astonished 
at being compelled to say that the life of this good 
Sister was so simple, so uniform, that T could see m 
it nothing remarkable. I must own to you, dear 
Sister, that, in spite of hearing the report, that it 
was she who had been so privileged by the Blessed 
Virgin, I could hardly believe it. for her life seemed 
just like that of anyone else. Sometimes T tried 
to find out the truth by questioning her, as to the 
impression produced during her time in the seminary 
when the great event was made known, hoping that 
she would betray herself in her answers, and thus 


Sister Catherine Labour g 

satisfy my curiosity; but she replied so simply that 
it was impossible to imagine that she was the privi 
leged soul, of whom she spoke in the third person." 

A true Sister of Charity, according to the teaching 
of St. Vincent, is called to practise great simplicity 
humility, and charity. 

Sister Catherine was simple, full of that real 
simplicity which, her Holy Founder said, " goes to 
God sincerely in everything, and acts always in the 
spirit of faith, seeking in all things onlv the glory of 

Her spirituality was simple, not obtrusive or self- 
seeking; her contemplative soul being, as it were, 
concentrated in the Sacred Heart of Jesus, really 
present in the Blessed Sacrament, and in the Immacu 
late Heart of Mary so closely united to that of her 
Divine Son. During the meditation, which began 
each morning at half-past four, for the first half-hour 
she always knelt, holding herself erect, with her 
hands joined, and barely resting on the bench in 

Once when questioned about her mental prayer 
she replied, " It is not difficult, When I go to the 
chapel I place myself in the presence of God, saying 
Lord, here I am; give me what Thou wilt. If He 
gives me something, I am very happy, and thank 
Him; if He gives me nothing, I thank Him too, know 
ing I deserve nothing. Then I tell Him all that is in 
my mind, all my sorrows and all my joys, and then 
I listen. If you listen to Him, He will speak to you, 
for with God we must both speak and listen. He 
always speaks when we go to Him directly and 


A True Sister of Chanty 

The thought <f ^ 1(> morrow s Holy Communion 
strengthened her in her daily duties, and she would 
often say to a young companion, working with her, 
" Come. Sister, you must do something for Almighty 
Cod. to prepare for to-morrow s Communion." 

When the community was reciting together the 
chaplet of six decades, which St. Vincent laid down 
in the rules in place of the Divine Oflice. the Sisters 
always remarked that then her voice was particularly 
clear and harmonious, her accent touching and 

Asked one day why she did not scold a very trouble 
some old man under her care in the wards of the 
Ho. pice, she replied. "I cannot; I see God in him." 
Of another, when someone remarked, "Well. Sister 
Catherine, how troublesome that rascal is !" her sole 
reply was. 1; V/ell, pray for him." Indeed, her care 
for the sick was rewarded, for it was afterwards 
t -s iiiied that not one of those under her care died 
without being first reconciled to God. 

Crossing the garden that separated the Hospice of 
Knghien from Heuilly, where her Superior lived, she 
always stopped before a statue of Our I. adv. (which 
is still there)* and with her hands joined and her eyes 
lixed on her Blessed Mother her face would seem foi 
a, few moments transfigured with joy. This was so 
well known, that the Children of Mary, and even the 
postulants at Ueuilly. more than once hid themselves 
behind the shrubs to watch her standing there, as it 
were, absorbed in contemplation. Before this same 
statue, of which we shall hear again, a companion 
once found her before the morning meditation at 
half-past four. It was not necessary, however, if a 


Sister Catherine Labour^ 

Sister was anxious to see her at her prayers, for her 
to go to the garden, for during the morning and 
evening meditations each day, motionless before the 
tabernacle, turned slightly sideways, with her eyes 
raised to the statue of the Blessed Virgin, Sister 
Catherine knelt as if in ecstasy. In consequence, 
the Sisters could not help being struck by the fact 
that, in spite of her evident union with God and 
heavenly things, every week at the conference, or 
accusation, on Friday evenings, she accused herself 
of the same fault: " To have been wanting in making 
acts of faith in the presence of God." Truly to her 
God was really present everywhere, reigning supreme, 
both in her inner life and in her intercourse with 
her companions. " It happened," said one of the 
sisters, " that I sometimes told her of the pain it 
always gave me to hear such or such a humiliating 
word that had been addressed to her; she unvaryingly 
replied, quite calmly, It is so much for God. To 
others, who would try to console her in the same way, 
she often replied, We must see God in all things. 
To Sister Catherine God was really always present 
everywhere, reigning supreme in her intercourse with 
others, as well as in her own interior life. Though so 
reserved, she always took an affectionate interest in 
all that concerned her relations, and in this again 
her love was all in God and for God. She might have 
said, like St. Vincent, " Do you think I do not love 
my relations ? I have as great affection for them as 
anyone could have, but I must act according to grace 
and not according to nature." In the same way, 
" Aunt Zoe," as they used to remark, in the family 
intimacy, " seems only to care about our souls." 


A True Sister of Charity 

When one of her brothers, who had given up the 
practice of religion, fell ill, she begged those living 
with him to watch over him well, and see that he 
did not die without the Sacraments. When another 
brother was dying, she- went to see him. and hearing 
that he had already been anointed, put the Miraculous 
Medal round his neck with her own hands. 

Hut her greatest affection was for her nephew, 
Philip. He had begun his studies under a priest in 
his native village, which was not far from Fain-les- 
Moutiers. She questioned him on the subject of his 
vocation, asking him if he really wished to become 
a priest. He answered in the affirmative, and she 
at. once arranged that he should go to Paris, con 
ducting him herself to the college at Montdidier, 
which was directed by the priests of the Mission. 
Towards the end of his studies, having come to visit 
her at the Hospice of Enghien. she asked him if he 
still persevered in his desire. "If you wish to join 
Ihos. priests," she said, referring to the- priests of 
the Mission, "they will receive you. You might 
perhaps" s ^ (1 added smilingly. " be named Superior, 
you know, and then be more at liberty. You 
might travel, see different countries, and go on the 
Mission to China, as did Venerable Pcrboyrc," she 
continued, showing him at the same time a relic she 
had in her hand, which was a piece of the stuff belong 
ing to the holy martyr, " and you might conic buck." 
Her ii -phew. in speaking of this years after, added, 
1 listened to all that, as quite useless talk, and a 
little bit of mischief on Sister Catherine s part, by 
which she hoped to tind out what I, a young man of 
seventeen years of age, thought about the future, 


Sister Catherine Laboure 

so I cut her short by saying, Well, we shall 

see. " 

Father Philip M. Menniot has, indeed, seen fulfilled 
each supposition of his " holy aunt," as Father 
Chinchon, his Director in the novitiate, always called 
Sister Catherine. He entered at St. Lazare, was 
placed, when quite young, as head of the Little 
Seminary of St. Pons; then went to the Far East, 
where he exercised for many years the offices of 
Procurator and Visitor of the Chinese Missions, and 
in 1899, the time of the first canonical inquiries of 
the life and virtue of Sister Catherine Laboure, was 
recalled to France to take up the office of Assistant 
to the Congregation of the Mission, and Director of the 
Daughters of Charity. His mother was no other than 
the little " Tonnie," of Fain-les-Moutiers. One day, 
when she and Sister Catherine were talking about 
different events in her life, in which suffering had 
not been wanting, she said, " If I had known what 
was going to happen to me, I would have become a 
nun like you." ; Each one to their own vocation," 
replied Sister Catherine. " You would not then 
have had the consolation of giving one of your sons 
to God." 

Mary Antoinette, having towards the end of her 
life gone to live in Paris, after being bedridden for 
some months, on January 18, 1874, fell into a state 
of coma, not able to speak, and apparently recognizing 
no one. The next afternoon Sister Catherine went 
to see her, and having asked her niece, Mrs. D., and 
her two daughters to leave her alone with the invalid, 
remained for about an hour in the room. What 
happened we do not know, but the fact remains that 


A True Sister of Charity 

when the hour had elapsed. Sister Catherine opened 
the door and said, ealinly. wk Go in now and see your 
mother." They did so. and found the patient, to 
their surprise, fully conscious, and able to make her 
last recommendations to each of them. She then 
again became unconscious, and died at four o clock 
the next morning. 

While- her sister went to rejoice in Heaven in the 
unveiled presence of Ciod. Sister Catlu rinc continued 
to seek Him here below, and to find Him hidden in 
each of the events of her life. 

Her companions observed that on each of the gr< at 
leasts of Our Lady, and especially on that of the 
Immaculate Conception, she was tried in some way 
by painful sufferings, which the humble Sister received 
as a special favour bestowed on her by the Blessed 
Virgin. HIT Sister-Servant related that, having 
gone with her and several of the other Sisters to the 
mother-house on the- feast of the Immaculate Con 
ception, in getting into the omnibus that evening to 
return home Sister Catherine slipped and broke her 
wrist. She said nothing, and no one knew the 
accident had happened until, after a few moments. 
Sister Dulcs, seeing that she- he-Id her arm wrapped 
in her handkerchief, asked her what was the matter. 
" Oh, Sister." she quietly re-plied. w I am only carry 
ing my bouquet; each year Our Lady sends me one 
like this." 

Thus it was that in all the events of he r Jif< . Sister 
Catherine preserved the calm simplicity e>f her faith 
auel confidence in God, ami, according to the- counsel 
of Our Lord, united the- prudence of the serpent 
with the- simplicity of the dove. 


Sister Catherine Laboure 

St. Vincent teaches that the marks of a truly 
humble soul are to be willing to bear insult and 
contempt, to love lowly employments, to have no 
ambition, and to be content with whatever God 
wills. Such was the humility of Sister Catherine. 

Father Aladel, at the beginning of the canonical 
inquest, declared that the young Sister had exacted 
from him the promise of never making known her 
name, authorizing him only to speak of the apparition. 
Asked if he knew what reason she had for this de 
mand, which, of course, prevented her from being 
present at the canonical inquest, and made any 
personal examination quite impossible, he replied 
that he could think of no reason except that she was 
urged to it by her great humility. 

It seemed, indeed, that Our Lady helped her to 
persevere in that hidden life and guarded her humility 
in a special way. Thus, when Father Aladel ordered 
the painting of two pictures, one representing the 
vision of the Medal, and the other that of the 
heart of St. Vincent, the artist inquired what colour 
he was to paint Our Lady s veil. Father Aladel s 
embarrassment was great, as he had not the slightest 
remembrance of this detail; and though anxious to 
have the apparition correctly represented, yet he did 
not wish Sister Catherine to think that he attached 
any importance to the matter. He therefore decided 
to write to her, apparently in order to warn her 
against the illusions of the devil, asking her to 
describe to him again the form in which Our Lady 
had shown herself. 

Sister Catherine s reply w r as as follows: 

" At this moment I cannot recall all that I saw, 


A True Sister of Charity 

only <>nc thing is vividly in my mind now, which is 
t luit the veil of I lie Blessed Virgin was, as it were-, 
white like the dawn." It was the only thing Father 
Aladel wished to know, and it was the only thing 
Sister Catherine could then recall. 

When the pictures were finished they were placed 
in the seminary, and he arranged for Sister Catherine 
to go to see them at a time when he could, as if by 
chance, be there also. One of the Sisters happened 
to meet Sister Catherine, and, quite suddenly, sus 
pecting something, turned to the priest, saying, "I 
am certain that is the Sister who had the vision." 
Taken quite by surprise and feeling unable to make 
any reply, he threw the question on to Sister Catherine, 
who so laughingly said, " Truly you have just hit 
upon it. that the questioner at once rejoined, " I 
see, Father, how mistaken I was, for you certainly 
would not have 1 appealed to her if I had been right. 1 

AVc have already seen how earnestly, but how un 
successfully, the Archbishop endeavoured to speak to 
her: the same tiling happened to Father Ratisbonne 
who. after his conversion in 1842, made many press 
ing, but useless, solicitations to her Director. Fven 
when Father Ktienne. who had been interested from 
the very beginning in the apparitions, became 
Superior-General, he could not succeed in making 
her speak, for whenever questioned by him. her 
memory quite left her for the time being. This gave 
rise to the report in the community that the vision 
was completely effaced from the memory of the 
Sister who had been favoured with it. The conse 
quence was that Sister Catherine was left unques 
tioned and unknown in her works in the Hospice. 


Sister Catherine Labour 

She had been given different charges: that of the 
kitchen, the wash-house, and then for forty years 
the care of the old men, to which was added that 
of the poultry. Even the smallest of her duties 
was zealously performed, hens well tended, her dairy 
in perfect order. 

However, in her last years at Enghien the sus 
picion arose that it might have been to her that the 
Miraculous Medal had been revealed, and though no 
one ever dared to speak to her on the subject, yet it 
led everyone to examine her more closely and severely. 

Two postulants, who were on the point of starting 
for the novitiate, hoping to entice her to talk of the 
apparitions, went to her and said: "Sister, we are 
going to the seminary, so won t you say something 
to us about Our Lady ?" " Well ! be sure to profit 
by your seminary, and pray much to the Blessed 
Virgin," was all the confidence they succeeded in 

A young Sister of Charity who was visited by a 
relation happened to meet Sister Catherine at the 
door, and whispered to her friend, " That is the 
Sister who had the apparition in 1830." " Oh, 
Sister," cried out the visitor, " how happy I am to 
see and congratulate one who has been favoured with 
the vision of the Miraculous Medal." Sister Catherine 
made no reply, but feigned a perfect astonishment, 
while her young companion, realizing her fault, tried 
vainly to repair it by saying, " Oh, Sister does not 
wish it made known." That evening, the Sister- 
Servant having sent her to apologize, she said to 
Sister Catherine, " Sister, they told me in the semi 
nary it was the Sister in charge of the hen-house at 

A True Sister of Charity 

Knghien who had seen the Blessed Virgin, and 1 
believed it." "Little one," was Sister Catherine s 
only reply, ki you should never speak at random like 

Once, during the community recreation, OIK- of her 
companions happened to remark that probably those 
who had been favoured with the visions both of the 
Medal and of the Scapular of the Passion had been 
Superiors. No, no." replied Sister Catherine, 
"Mi V will always live in obscurity, they must lead 
a hidden life." " Perhaps they are both dead," was 
th next remark. " \Ylio knows ?" said Sister 
Catherine. " Who can possibly know that ?" 

Before Sister Catherine s death, when, as we shall 
see. Sister Dutes received her last confidence of the 
apparitions, she could not help congratulating her 
on all the graces she had received from the Blessed 
Virgin. "I, favoured with them?" said Sifter 
Catherine, seemingly surprised. " 1 have only been 
an in -truuient. It was not for me I hat the Blessed 
Virgin appeared. I knew nothing, not even how to 
; it is in the community that I learned all I 
know, that is why the Blc-sed Virgin chose- in-.-, so 
I hat no one could have an} doubt." 

Perhaps the real strength of her humility lay in 
her utter detachment from ihe esteem and affection 
of creatures. God fully sniliced; God. who had 
shown Himself to her in so visible a manner, and His 
Immaculate Mother, whose charms had ravished her 
hi -art, were- alone her joy and her delight. 

Charity, which, according to St. Vincent s teaching, 
constitutes the true spirit of the community, the 
Sisters are to practise towards God by piety, towards 

97 H 

Sister Catherine Labour e 

the poor by zeal in their service, and towards the 
community by faithfully observing the rule. We 
have only to call to mind the details of Sister 
Catherine s life to see how charity enlivened each of 
her acts throughout her w r hole life. 

" St. Genevieve," said St. Vincent in one of his 
conferences to the Sisters, " loved poverty, and you 
also must love the practice of this virtue; I say the 
practice, for it would not be much to love the virtue 
only in name." Sister Catherine s love of poverty, 
both exterior and interior, invigorated each action, 
but so unobtrusively, that she never seemed in any 
way different from the other Sisters. 

One of her offices was to serve the meals in the 
refectory, and this she always did, taking care not 
to waste anything, and reserving quite simply the 
last, and least appetizing, portion for herself. 

Sister Elizabeth, one of her companions, who was 
very fond of her, and whom Sister Catherine had 
helped very much in her office of the kitchen, said: 
During her last illness, when I would ask her before 
the meal what she would like, or what she could eat 
best, the answer was always, Whatever you wish. " 

She was always particularly careful about every 
thing, mending her own habit until it was entirely 
worn out, and taking great care of the clothes of the 
old men. In the lodge, in which she sat when portress, 
there were none of the little ornaments with which 
even poverty sometimes loves to surround itself. 
A common statue of Our Lady and a crucifix were 
almost the only furniture in the room. " After her 
death," said a Sister, " we found nothing belonging 
to her. Several of us would have wished to have 


A True Sister of Charity 

kept sonic- souvenir of her, but there was hardly 
anything. I managed to get a little chain, used for 
mounting rosaries." 

If poverty is the dowry of a true Sister of Charity, 
purity is her greatest ornament. "Never listen." 
says St. Vincent, "to what could in any way be 
prejudicial to the purity which you must possess, in 
order to have the angelic modesty of true peasant 
girls, such as St. (icnevieve, whom you should con 
sider your model." The purity of Sister Catherine 
impressed all around her; her very eyes, though 
habit ually lowered, could not hide-, either the clearness 
of her sight or the purity of her heart. Among those 
cared for at Knghien some were not always " steady," 
as she used to say, but in her presence no one ever 
dared to show the least sign of dissipation. She 
seemed to have a supernatural discernment which 
made- her recognize at once if anyone was wanting in 
this virtue. 

Lastly, according to St. Vincent, the " principal 
virtue, in which tiie Sisters of Charity are to imitate 
the good country girls, is that of holy obedience. 
You must obey without murmuring, regarding it UA 
doing the will of (iod, being submissive, and tractable 
under the conduct of Divine Providence ; doing all 
things your Superiojs command, as a horse 1 who 
turns to the right or to the left, according to his 
rider s will." 

If we judge Sister Catherine solely by her exterior 
conduct, we would say her one preoccupation was to 
accomplish the orders of obedience. One after 
another, she readily undertook without a murmur, 
the different- charges of the kitchen, the linen-room, 


Sister Catherine Labour 

the courtyard, the care of the old men, and last of 
all, that of portress, acquitting herself of each of 
these duties as if it had been the most honourable. 

During the last year of her life some of the children, 
having gone over from Reuilly, on the eve of the 
feast of St. Catherine, to wish her a happy feast, 
found her, though very weak, busy at the well in the 
courtyard, washing the hospital crockery. 

" See, children, I am doing the work of the 
Daughters of Charity," she said; " these arc our pearls, 
we must take care not to leave them to others." 

" Sister, no one feels weary when they do the will 
of God," was her reply another day, when asked 
if she did not feel her office wearisome. 

The Mother-General sent for her once, and said 
that she was thinking of appointing her as Sister- 
Servant. " Oh, Mother." replied Sister Catherine, 
" you know well that I am not capable of it," and to 
her great satisfaction she was sent back to Enghien. 

The superiority that she rejected for herself she 
desired should be honoured in all who were lawfully 
clothed with it. " Do not meddle with superiority, 
for it is sacred," and, " Children, do not murmur; 
never find fault with the orders of Superiors, for 
they represent God," she often said, and no one ever 
heard her murmur or even discuss any orders given. 

For some years the direction of the Hospice, in all 
but name, was confided to Sister Catherine, for, 
besides her age and capability, her virtues had gained 
for her the respect of all her companions. In 1874, 
however, an assistant was named by the community 
to help the Sister-Servant in the government of the 
Houses of Reuilly and Enghien. If Sister Catherine 


A True Sister of Charity 

had not long since been accustomed to obedience and 

abnegation, it would have seemed verv hard to one 


of her quick and energetic character to recognize the 
authority of a much younger and less experienced 
companion, but she, who had always kept herself 
in the background, was the first to express her 
absolute- submission. 

v> Sister," she said to her Sister-Servant, when she 
told her of the new arrangement, "you may be 
quite at ease; it is quite sufficient our Superiors 
have 1 appointed Sister Angela, to make us receive 
her as sent by (iod, and obey her, as we would 
obey you." 

She kept her word. 

We must not think, however, that Sister Catherine 
was naturally of an easy and gentle disposition, and 
t luil acts of obedience were never difficult to her, for, 
on the- contrary, she was essentially energetic and 
quick-tempered, thoroughly capable of all household 
dutie>. governing with great care and order the office 
confide d to her. 

Her impetuosity led her to rebel interiorly against 
an order, but the- struggle \vas only revealed by the 
linn tone- of her voice, or the sudden Hush of her 
face, which. ho\vev<T, proved also that her self-will 
was subject to obedience. 

Ueali/ing this, we readily understand how much 
she had suffered from the opposition she met in the 
accomplishment of her mission, for even if. after the 
-triking of the Medal, the trials we re more apparent 
than real on the part of her wise Director, they were 
none the less painful to her. Indeed, we may say 
tht-y were- an interior martyrdom known to (iod alone. 


Sister Catherine Labour 

The fourth vow taken by the Sisters of Charity is 
that of Service of the Poor, to whom Sister Catherine 
gladly devoted all her strength and energy. 

She never wished to leave the Hospice, gladly giving 
up her turn to others when there was a question of 
going to Paris, except on rare occasions, when there 
was a prospect of a visit to the mother-house. She 
was always thankful for any gifts bestowed in favour 
of the poor, even in her old age taking pleasure in 
relating how her first Sister-Servant would, each year, 
send the firstfruits of the garden either to indigent 
families in the neighbourhood, or to the poor in their 
wards, not allowing a Sister to touch one until after 
this had been done. 

We have already seen how zealously Sister 
Catherine worked for the poor. During the Com 
mune, as long as was possible, she was faithful to her 
duties, always keeping in mind St. Vincent s desire, 
that the Sisters of Charity should treat the poor with 
respect as their masters, and with devotion as the 
members of Jesus Christ. 

We may conclude this chapter with the words of 
St. Vincent to the Sisters of Charity: " I wish you to 
understand that what I have just been saying to you 
is of the utmost importance namely, that you 
should exercise and maintain yourselves in the spirit 
of the good and edifying country girls of whom I have 
been speaking." 1 

Like St. Vincent, we may form the same wish for 
the Sisters of Charity who are still serving the poor 
in the way he so desired; to which we add, may their 
death be like that of Sister Catherine Laboure. 

1 Conference, January 25, 1643. 

FORTY YEARS": 1870-1871 

CHAPTER VII: "Forty Years 9 : 

i S 70-1 cS / i 

" Hail, City of Refuge ! 

Hail, David s high tower, 
With battlements crowned, 
And girded with power." 

HOW vividly must the disastrous events of 1870- 
1S71 have recalled to Sister Catherine Our 
Blessed Mother s sad predictions, as one by 
one {hey were verified; Monsignor Darboy, the Arch 
bishop of Paris, iivc Jesuits, and many other priests, 
were shot. But she also remembered the words, 
( cine to the foot of the altar." and so she nr^ed 
all those around her to "pray to God to shorten 
i hese evil days." 

Towards the end of March. 1871, she said one day, 
during recreation, to her Superior: "Sister. I had a 
dream last night. The Blessed Virgin came to the 
door of the community room, and asked for you. 
As you were not there, she went to your oilice. but 
did not find you. Then she sal down on your chair 
at 1 he desk and said to me. Since Sister Pules is not 
here, you must tell her from me that she may solely 
go a\vay, for I will take possession of the house, and 
will guard it. She will go to the south with Sister 
Clare, and will come back on May 31. 

I0 5 

Sister Catherine Labour t 

The Commune at that time was just beginning, but, 
so far, the Houses of Reuilly and Enghien were in no 

The next day Sister Catherine, on meeting her 
Sister-Servant, said, " Sister, you need not pay any 
attention to what I said yesterday." 

" Oh, Sister Catherine, I never even thought of it 
afterwards," answered Sister Dufes. 

But though, in reality, it was only a dream, for the 
Blessed Virgin had said to her at the end of the last 
of the apparitions in 1830, " My child, you will not 
see me any more, but you will hear my voice in your 
prayers," yet this prediction was realized to the 

On Good Friday, April 7, 1871, two of the wounded 
who were being nursed at the hospital at ReuilJy 
gave information at the Commune that two Dragoons 
of Versailles were in the hospital. At once a great 
mob went to seize them, and, meaning to shoot them, 
led them to the guard-house. 

Though there seemed to be no hope of saving them, 
one of the Sisters went to the barracks, and there, 
by earnest entreaty, had at last induced the enraged 
mob to listen to her, and then explained to them that 
these Dragoons had taken no part in the attack on 
the people. This was true, for they had been in the 
hospital only for medical treatment, and she was 
therefore allowed to take them back to the Hospice 
on condition that she would be responsible for them. 

On Easter Sunday, however, the National Guards, 
no doubt ashamed of having yielded to a good im 
pulse, went back to Reuilly to take them prisoners. 
One of the wretches who had denounced them, and 


Forty Years " 

who was able to recognize them, was sent to search 
the house with the National (iuards. One of the 
Dragoons was hidden and could not be found; and 
(iod allowed that the other, who was lying in bed, 
was not recognized by the soldiers as they passed by. 

Knraged at the failure, the ringleader summoned 
the Sister-Superior to his presence, and commanded 
her to give up the two men. That I will never 
do, replied Sister Duies. 

At these words the Communists raised their swords, 
and were about to lead her to the prison at St. Lazare, 
where they had already confined the religious of 
1 icpus, and two Sisters of Charity, when to their 
surprise the forty Sisters, who were her companions, 
calmly surrounded her, and said they also meant to 
go with their Superior. 

The long and conspicuous rank had gone as far as 
the lodge when the miserable man who had given 
the order, suddenly changing his mind, left the 
Sisters free, and went away in disgust, saying, " What 
do you think I could possibly do with those frightened 
swallows ?" adding, however, " You will have news 
from me to-morrow." 

The next day Sister Dufes was threatened with a 
personal warrant, but she succeeded in escaping, and 
drove as far as Versailles, thus fulfilling the lirst part 
of the dream. 

After some days of painful suspense, without in the 
least recalling Sister Catherine s words. Sister Dufes 
said to her companion, who proposed going back to 
Paris for news, " Send Sister Clare to me. and if I 
have to be absent for long, we will go to the south." 
Accordingly, accompanied by Sister Clare d Aragon, 


Sister Catherine Labo^tr^ 

she went soon alter to the House of St. Michel at 
Toulouse, where she had begun her work as a Sister 
thirty years before, thus accomplishing every detail 
of the dream. 

Sister Catherine, meanwhile, had remained faithful 
botli to her work as portress, and to that which was 
so dear to her, the distribution of the Miraculous 
Medal. Even the soldiers often asked for it. The 
Sister who was there with her relates how zealously 
she gave it to those left in charge of the house. 
Very soon those who were on guard in the neigh 
bourhood used to come and ask to see her, saying, 
We have come to ask Sister Catherine for medals 
like those we saw with our comrades." 

But you, poor wretch, who have neither faith 
nor morals, what good can a medal possibly be to 
you ?" 

The soldier would answer, " Sister, it is true we 
don t believe in much, but we do believe in this 
Medal. It has protected others, and it will protect 
us too; and if we go to fight, it will help us to die 
bravely." So they went to Sister Catherine, who 
gladly gave the medals to any who would wear them. 

At last, however, on Sunday, April 30, owing to 
the animosity of the atheists, it became necessary 
to leave the house. The day before, Sister Catherine 
was led between two soldiers before a kind of tribunal, 
which had been established in the community room, 
and was closely questioned, without, however, any 
evil consequence. 

On her way out of the hospice, when passing 
through the garden with one of her companions, she 
stood beside that statue of Our Lady which we have 


Forty Years 

already mentioned, and conjured the- Immaculate 
Mothe-r to bring tliem back to their dear home in 
time- to close- the- month of May. 

AVhen they readied the lodge, though the- evening 
had already set in, the- Communists insisted on 
examining the- bags, which contained everything they 
were taking with them. The Sisters had to stand by, 
while- they scattered the- contents, and made fun of 
Ihcir poor lui^we. 

I ^ !~* r*> 

Having repacked their small bags, and silently 
submitted to these vexations. Sister CatheriiH- and 
her companion at last got into the omnibus which 
awaited them. Perhaps what they felt ino.--t e ! all 
was that as they passed through the streets, the 
mothers made the- little ones in their arms >honl 
out threatening and insulting words. 

Sister Catherine and her companion went thai 
evening to St. Denis, where, it is needless to sav. 
th;-y were cordially received by the Sister-Servant, 
who. however, was permitted by the- Committee to 
offer hospitality to one- Sister only. On hearing this, 
Sister Catl: riiie said to her companion: "1 cannot 
stay at St. Denis alone, for if 1 elie I would wish to 
have one- of my companions near me-. So. if you 
will come with me-, we will go together to Sifter 
Mettavent at Balainvillicrs, as she proposed; but I 
beg you not to leave me 1 ." 

"From Balainvilliers, in the- Department of Seine- 
et-()isc, Sister Catherine- wrote a long letter of eight 
pages to her Sister-Servant, in which she assured her 
that they would be back at Ke-uilly at the end of the- 
month of May. This letter, unfortunately, was not 


Sister Catherine Laboure 

It was wonderful how sure Sister Catherine was 
of this return, in spite of the unsettled state of 

When she heard on Ascension Thursday, May 18, 
that a detachment of Republicans had committed all 
kinds of sacrilegious infamy in the Church of Our 
Lady of Victories, she said to her companion, " Did 
you hear that they have insulted Our Lady of Vic 
tories ? Well, that means their downfall; they will 
go no farther." 

It was true, for on the following Sunday the troops 
from Versailles forced the line, entered the capital 
near Auteuil, and in several other places, and crushed 
the insurrection. 

On May 30, Sister Dufes, returning from Toulouse, 
came to Balainvilliers. On the following day she, 
with Sister Catherine, went back to take possession 
of the two houses at Enghien and Reuilly, and 
saw how faithfully Our Lady had kept her promise 
and taken care of everything; for though the Com 
munists had had full possession of the houses, both 
at Enghien and Reuilly, and a large number of 
those ruffians, whose satanical pleasure was to 
break and destroy everything, had lodged there, 
yet all had escaped unharmed. 

When the insurrection had been quelled, and the 
house left empty, the Children of Mary of the neigh 
bourhood had taken charge, and protected it from 
being pillaged by the mob. 

One of the things that most impressed the Sisters 
was the fact that, though the Republicans had tried 
their utmost to overthrow the statue of the Im 
maculate Conception which was in the garden, they 



Forty Years 

had been unable to do so, their sacrilegious efforts, 
in sonic inexplicable way, being prevented. 

Sister Catherine, on her arrival, hastened as a mark 
of gratitude to replace on the statue of Our Heavenly 
Queen the crown which she had carried into exile, 
saying as she did so, " I told you, dear Mother, that 
I would come back to crown you on May 31." 

We cannot close the account of what relates to 
Sister Catherine during the Commune without glanc 
ing at the mother-house, which must have been in 
her thoughts and in her prayers so vividly during the 
time of trial. 

The following is an extract from the notice sent 
from the Hue de Bac to each of the different houses 
of the Sisters of Charity throughout the world. 
Though not really connected with the life of Sister 
Catherine, we cannot resist quoting it, for it recalls 
so vividly the words of Our Lady: "The danger 
will be great, but have no fear, for Almighty God 
and St. Vincent will protect the community, and I 
myself will be with you." 

" One by one we saw the Sisters of the different 
houses in Paris expelled, and, in spite of our con 
fidence in the Blessed Virgin, we were full of anxiety 
about our dear mother-house when, on Monday, 
May 15, our most honoured Mother was officially 
informed that all the community papers, and those 
of the archives, were to be sealed. Sadly, and 
hastily, we had to take the most necessary pre 
cautions, or, I should say, take those that were 
possible, for during the last few days no parcel could 
be sent from Paris without undergoing strict 


Sister Catherine Laboin 

"Father-Director, \,I-.o had from the beginning 
stayed with us in order to sustain our courage and 

^ o 

help us by his advice, now, fearing his presence would 
compromise the community, determined that day to 
go back to St. Lazare at night, and stay there for 
the most part of the day. 

" A week passed in the midst of this painful 
anxiety. We heard of the expulsion of different 
communities one after another, and each day we 
thanked Our Lord, through Mary Immaculate, for 
His special protection, and begged Him to sustain it. 
About ten o clock on the evening of Saturday, 
May 20, there was a loud ringing at the door, and 
the Sister-Portress, on opening the grate, saw many 
armed men, who, in the name of the Commune, 
demanded admittance. Then, as she was told to do, 
she asked if it were not possible for them to wait 
till morning. There are a great number of us, she 
said, and we would be grateful if you could put it 
off for a few hours. One of them said he would go 
and ask the Commune, and many of the others left 
with him. 

" Our most honoured Mother and Sister-Assistant. 
on hearing of this, went into that room which over 
looks the street to wait for their return. In the 
meantime, a great crowd had gathered round the 
door, probably in the hope of partaking in the riches 
which they believed they would find in the house. 

" Each of the Sisters, who in the meantime had 
been told to get up, went to her own office, except 
Sister Maseureau and Sister de Fremaux, who re 
joined the Mother-General. 

" Soon a delegate came from the Commune, and, 


" I^orty Years" 

ordering the door to be opened to admit him, with 
twelve of the National Guards, a sergeant, and a 
captain, said, Don t be afraid, Sisters; we do not 
wish to do any harm, but have come to guard you. 
Then, saying they intended to stay, he asked for some 
place to be assigned to them, so Mother-General 
showed him the parlour, which he said would suit quite 
well. Having ordered the men to install themselves 
there, he immediately demanded to see the seminary 
part of the building, and Mother-General at once 
saw it was their expulsion he had in view. So she 
said, If you intend to send us away, I hope you 
will give us a few days notice, for you can under 
stand that a house of 300 persons does not get empty 
in a moment, especially as we have 130 young girls 
and many invalids. It was easy to see by the 
delegate s smile that he knew the real design of the 
Commune, though he only said, That is not my 
affair/ Mother-General understood at once the 
necessity of evacuating the house as soon as possible. 
What he really meant to do was to make there a 
kind of citadel from which the men could shoot at 
the soldiers. 

;c He then asked if we had no other entrance to the 
street, and Mother, passing by the chapel on their 
way to the entrance at the Rue de Babylon, asked 
him if he would like to go in, but he said roughly, 
I have nothing to do in there. 

" Meanwhile, Sister-Assistant came to us, and in 
the Mother-General s name told us to go back to 
bed. Sleep was, however, quite out of the question, 
because we already saw plainly what would follow 
the first invasion. It seemed evident that Mary 

113 i 

Sister Catherine Laboure 

Immaculate, whom we had so ardently besought to 
keep us in that sanctuary, so honoured by her 
presence, was answering our prayers in a way that 
would surely be better for us, because it would be 
sealed by suffering and sacrifice. 

" So though, for the first time, the bell did not ring 
at four o clock next morning, we all assembled 
together in time for prayer. A sweet surprise awaited 
most of the Sisters, for it was necessary to consume 
the Sacred Hosts, and we were told to receive Holy 
Communion in the sacristy. Our dear Divine Master 
doubtlessly accepted the acts of resignation to His 
Holy Will during the night as a preparation. 

" Our honoured Mother had decided the destination 
of each of the Sisters; some of them were to leave 
Paris that evening, and some next morning, while a 
few were to remain in order not to leave the house 
till the last moment. 

It is impossible to describe the anguish of that 
morning. I can only say that it was as great as 
our love for that cradle of our vocation. We had 
offered to Mary Immaculate the tribute of our 
confidence, and we felt it was impossible that the 
Sovereign Mistress of the Heart of Jesus would not 
guard for the little company that favoured sanctuary, 
where she had shown her hands so filled with graces. 
A venerable old priest, who happened to be passing 
by as some of the seminary Sisters were sadly getting 
into the carriages which were to convey them to the 
railway station, said, c Sisters, we see that they are 
sending away your novices, but do not fear, for 
your number will be doubled, and tripled. Everyone 
sympathizes with you. (The adjutant who was to 


Forty Years 

sign the permit for the Sisters put off doing so, on 
one pretext or another, and at last absolutely refused 
to do so until he should be given a full list of the 

" Mother-General saw clearly that it was only a 
ruse, made in order to gain time to go all round 
the place, for he then asked to see the horses and 
vehicles. They had to pass down the alley of 
lime-trees, thus going near the bakehouse where all 
our provision of flour was, but Mary Immaculate 
was once more our Protectress, for they did not think 
of entering it. (When they were passing the statue 
of Our Lady the Sisters were heartbroken when they 
heard him insult their Heavenly Mother by comparing 
her to Venus.) 

* We went to the community room immediately 
after prayers next morning, as Mother-General wished 
to speak to us and say good-bye. If it had been sad 
for the Seminary Sisters the day before, it was far 
more so for those who had so long felt the sweetness 
of the ties which bound them to the family of St. 
Vincent, and to that venerated Mother who held here 
on earth the place of Mary Immaculate in our regard. 

" (The Mother-General then gave all necessary 
instructions, as to the different houses they were to 
go to, etc.) 

" Heartbroken, and our eyes full of tears, we were 
passing down to the refectory for breakfast, when 
we heard these words: Mother, we are saved. It 
was Sister Maseureau, who had just heard that the 
army had entered Paris and was advancing here. I 
am sure Our Lord will pardon the excitement which 
made us break our rule of silence for a moment, each 


Sister Catherine Laboure 

one saying, Is it possible ? Is it true ? c Our 
hopes have so often been deceived. 

" Mother-General could herself hardly believe it 
and begged us to keep the silence. 

" Nevertheless many went straight to the chapel 
to thank Our Lord, through Mary Immaculate, for 
what they called a miracle of protection, and when 
a quarter of an hour later the news was confirmed, 
the whole community assembled there to recite the 
chaplet in gratitude for our delivery. 

" (A few hours later the noise of the cannon made 
it evident) that our lives were each moment in 
danger, but to each of us it seemed far easier, during 
those dreadful times, to die together in that sanctuary 
of Mary, where duty and obedience had called us, 
than to leave what was so dear to us. Besides, all 
fear faded before our confidence in Our Queen, who 
had already so powerfully protected us. 

" (That night) after the prayers, Mother-General 
in a firm tone commanded us all to go to the dormi 
tories, and forbade us to cross, under any pretext, 
either the courts or the gardens. 

" Certainly this command greatly helped us to go 
without hesitating to the dormitory, for we must 
say the danger there seemed very great, but knowing 
that in so doing, we accomplished the Will of God, 
consoled and reassured us. Nevertheless we were 
very glad when the bell rang at four o clock, for the 
noise of the cannon and the hissing of the shells had 
driven sleep far from us. 

" It was Wednesday, May 24, feast of Our Lady 
Help of Christians, and we saw with joy that the 
candles were lit for Mass, for we had been deprived 


Forty Years 

both of hearing Mass and receiving Holy Communion 
for four days. Everything seemed to increase our 
fervour and make us appreciate more than ever this 
great gift. 

" And now that the danger is less and that our 
dear Seminary Sisters are once more sheltered in our 
privileged sanctuary, what can we render to the 
Lord for all He hath given to us ? We must say 
from our hearts, l O Lord, may our tongue be tied 
if we cease to publish Thy divine mercy. " 


HER DEATH (1876) 


FROM the beginning of the year 1876 Sister 
Catherine predicted her death. As one by one 
the feasts rolled by she would say, " This is 
the last time I shall see this feast-day." And when 
anyone seemed not to believe her prediction, she 
would add emphatically, " I will not see 1877." 
Many of her former predictions had been wonder 
fully realized, and, like them, this proved true. 
For instance, she had several times remarked to a 
Sister, " We will leave Enghien." 

" Who told you that, Sister Catherine ?" was the 

Well, it is quite true, for I saw written on a large 
castle the words, Hospice of Enghien, " said Sister 
Catherine, who then went on to describe the uniform 
that would be worn by the patients. In May, 1901, 
all this was verified, for the old people were then 
removed to the Castle d Ambroise, on the door of 
which is written the inscription, " Hospice d Enghien 
et d Orleans"; and there, dressed exactly as she had 
predicted, can be seen the invalids, who had been 
transferred from Paris to their new house. 

Father Baudier, S.J., in a letter written in 1897 


Sister Catherine Laboure 

tells us how Father Piau, whose chaplaincy had been 
suppressed by the Revolution, one day told his 
difficulties to Sister Catherine, whom he knew 

" Father," was her immediate reply, "go to 
Switzerland, for a mission is awaiting you there." 

A proof of the great confidence the priest must 
have had in Sister Catherine is that he immediately 
followed her advice and went to Switzerland. But 
did he find a mission and did he fulfil it, and thus 
prove the truth of the Sister s words ? Yes, he 
found a mission, and fulfilled it faithfully, becoming 
chaplain at the novitiate of the Religious of the 
Sacred Heart, where he laboured zealously and 
effectively for the good of the souls confided to his 

Madame Ferdinando Voitot, the nun who related 
this to Father Baudier, S. J., spoke of the great work 
Father Piau had done, adding, " He had a mission 
and he believed in it, because it was Sister Laboure 
who had sent him to it." 

Another prediction of hers was made to a priest 
charged by the diocesan authority in Paris to build 
a church in the district of Belain. In 1875 Sister 
Catherine remarked to him that the new church, which 
was quite near the Hospice of Enghien, would be 
put under the patronage of the Immaculate Con 
ception, and that he would be appointed parish 
priest. It so happened that though it was decided 
at first to dedicate the new church to St. Radigonde, 
yet in March, 1877, a special order from Cardinal 
Culbert substituted the title of the Immaculate Con 
ception, and in the following September Father 


Her Deatk 

Olmer was given charge of the parish; thus realizing 
Sister Catherine s prediction. 

Father Jules Chevalier, who was then preparing a 
new edition of the book of Father Aladel about the 
Miraculous Medal, went several times to see Sister 
Catherine at Enghien, and spoke to her confidentially 
on the subject of the apparitions. In the course of 
one of their conversations she remarked, " When 
Father Aladel published the edition of 1848 I told him 
that neither would he publish another, nor would I 
see another edition, because he who would prepare 
it would not finish it during my life." " Now I 
will catch you there," replied Father Chevalier, 
laughingly, for he expected to bring it out very 
shortly. Unforeseen difficulties, however, delayed its 
publication, and it was not published till after her 

Father Aladel had died very shortly after the 
promulgation of the Medal, without having made 
known all the circumstances connected with the 
manifestation, and this, added to the foreknowledge 
of her own death, made Sister Catherine desire to 
confide to Father Chinchon certain details which 
might otherwise remain for ever unknown. Though 
Father Chinchon, who had been Confessor at Enghien 
for many years, had just been removed, it was to 
him alone that Sister Catherine felt drawn to confide 
her last secrets. 

It was therefore to the surprise of everyone that 
she, who so seldom left Enghien, went to St. Lazare 
to ask Father Bore, then Superior-General, for per 
mission to consult Father Chinchon on her spiritual 


Sister Catherine Labour^ 

Father Bore, however, being ignorant of the 
motives of such a demand, refused, and so she re 
turned, humbly submissive, but not the less sad and 

She went straight to the Sister-Servant, Sister 
Dufes, and with tears in her eyes said, " Sister, I 
feel my end is near, and since I may not see my 
Confessor, I would like to speak to you. Do you 
know what about ?" 

" Sister Catherine," replied Sister Dufes, w r hom 
Father Etienne had previously informed on the 
subject, " it is quite true I know that you re 
ceived the Miraculous Medal from Our Immaculate 
Mother, but I never felt free to speak about it to 

4 Well, Sister," interrupted Sister Catherine, who 
had then quite regained her usual composure, " to 
morrow I will consult the Blessed Virgin in my 
prayers, and if she tells me to speak to you, I will 
do so; and if not, I will keep silence. If Our Lady 
consents, I will send over for you at ten o clock, and 
you can come to the parlour at Enghien, where we 
will be more at ease." 

Next day, before ten o clock, she sent the message 
to her Sister-Servant, who had been anxiously hoping 
for it all the morning. On receiving it she quickly 
crossed the garden and went straight to the parlour, 
where the communication began immediately, and so 
absorbed them that the ringing of the midday Angelus 
found them still standing in the same position in 
which they had begun their conversation. 

Sister Catherine confided the whole history of the 
apparitions to Sister Dufes, expressing great sorrow 


Her Death 

that the devotion to the Immaculate Conception 
seemed less lively and popular than it had been some 
years previously. 

She also spoke of the apparition at Lourdes, saying 
that the words of Our Lady, " I am the Immaculate 
Conception," were connected with the large copper 
medal, representing on one side the apparition to 
Sister Catherine, which Bernadette then wore. This 
medal is now reverently kept at the mother-house of 
the Sisters of Charity. 

Indeed it had always been remarked that when 
ever any of the Sisters of Charity expressed the 
desire to go to Lourdes, or to any other privileged 
sanctuary of Our Lady, she would always say. " Why 
do you wish to go so far ? Have you not the com 
munity chapel ? Did not the Blessed Virgin appear 
there, as well as at Lourdes ?" 

It is strange that, without having read any of the 
works published about the grotto at Lourdes, Sister 
Catherine always knew more about it than anyone 
who had made the pilgrimage. 

The real reason of her communication, however, 
was her great sorrow that there was no memento, 
even in the community, of that part of the apparition 
when Our Lady, holding the globe in her hands, 
raised her pleading eyes to Heaven. This part 
of the apparition, owing to the sudden death of 
Father Aladel, had never been made known. 

On hearing of it for the first time Sister Dufes 
could not help exclaiming, " There has never been 
the slightest mention of the globe in Our Lady s 
hands, and if we speak of it now they will only say 
that you have lost your mind." 


Sister Catherine Laboure 

;c Well," calmly replied Sister Catherine, " it 
won t be the first time they have thought so, but 
I shall continue to say, till my last sigh, that the 
Blessed Virgin appeared to me holding the globe in 
her hands." 

What did Our Lady say when she offered the 
globe ?" 

" Ah, Sister, that I did not hear, but I understood 
that she prayed for the whole world." 

" And what became of the globe then ?" 

" Sister, I know nothing about that," said Sister 
Catherine, arid then, extending her own hands, she 
added, " When the Blessed Virgin extended her hands 
I only saw the rays falling on the globe under her 
feet, especially where the word France was written." 

But you will prejudice the Medal by thus speaking 
about the globe." 

; No, no, Sister, it will not alter the Medal; let 
them represent the globe in a statue, and place it 
over the altar, where Our Lady appeared. The 
longing for this statue has been a torture to me during 
my whole life, and I dare not appear before the 
Blessed Virgin until it is made." 

Sister Catherine also said that Sister Pineau, who 
was sacristan at the mother-house, and Sister Mary 
Grand of Boulogne, who had formerly been one of 
the secretaries under Father Aladel, could confirm 
her words. 

Sister Dufes, listening to the account of the favours 
bestowed by Our Lady, asked herself if this could 
possibly be the same Sister Catherine, always so 
silent, who found it difficult even to express her own 
thoughts in ordinary conversation. She could hardly 


Her Death 

resist throwing herself on her knees and asking 
pardon for not having till then fully appreciated her. 

She immediately wrote to Sister Grand, then at 
the hospital at Rion, part of whose reply is as follows : 

Yes, my dear Sister Dufes, our sweet Queen did 
appear holding the globe of the earth in her virginal, 
consecrated hands, rekindling it in her love, pressing 
it to her all-merciful heart, and then gazing on it 
with ineffable tenderness. I still ought to possess 
the design of a picture or statue representing her 
in this attitude, as was at first intended, but I do 
not know if I will be able to find it among my papers, 
for it is so many years since all this happened. The 
worthy Father Aladel, probably on the Sister s 
demand, had meant to order a statue which would 
represent this phase of the apparition, but it was 
never done. . . . This second vision is, however, 
in no way contrary to the first, for the Blessed 
Virgin showed herself in both with her arms extended 
and the rays falling on the earth, thus inundating 
with her mercy, and shedding abroad, especially on 
France, her precious gifts. 

It seems that, when the august Mother placed 
the globe near her virginal heart, diamonds, car 
buncles, and precious stones shone on her maternal 
hands, and their rays, falling on our miserable earth, 
enriched it with her graces and her bountiful gifts. 
So it was also, when she extended her hands, and 
poured out on the globe streams of blessing and love. 

My dear Sister Dufe s, how I love to recall all 
this ! But I am sorry that our venerable Father 
Aladel did not leave, at least in writing, the unknown 
details which, he said, could only be made known 


Sister Catherine Labour e 

after the death of the Sister, for, if revealed, it 
would be known at once who had had the vision. 
I never allowed myself to question him in any way 
which would reveal to me where the Sister was, 
though I always felt as if I knew her, both on account 
of Father Aladel so often speaking to me about this 
wonderful grace, when I had the happiness of writing 
about it under his direction, and of hearing his holy 
and inspiring thoughts on the subject." The letter 
ends thus: "These are all my little details they 
explain the words that the good cure of Ars used 
when speaking of us. Ah ! how much the Blessed 
Virgin loves them, she watches over them always. 
I so rejoice in these words, that it always seems to 
me that if they were known and understood the 
seminary would never be large enough to contain all 
our young Sisters. But they may not be proclaimed 
from the house-tops, for we must guard our secrets 
and keep ourselves hidden, as did St. Vincent." 

The letter from Sister Grand was quite sufficient 
to reassure Sister Dufes, and she at once complied 
with Sister Catherine s wishes and ordered a statue 
representing Our Lady with the globe in her hands. 
When it arrived, Sister Catherine could not refrain 
from a little gesture of disappointment, saying, 
" The Blessed Virgin was far more beautiful than 
that." However, her great anxiety relaxed, in spite 
of the fact that no earthly statue could ever be in her 
eyes a worthy representation of the Blessed Mother. 

The 8th of September found Sister Catherine 
suffering, but in November she regained her strength 
sufficiently to go to the mother-house for her annual 
Retreat. It was her last visit. The only relaxation 


Her Death 

she allowed herself was a short confidential talk 
during the free time at midday with one of her 
former companions at Enghicn, who was now a 
Sister of Ollice in the seminary. 

One day she proposed going with her to the 
seminary to look at the pictures of the apparition 
of the Blessed Virgin and of the he-art of St. Vincent 
which were there. They did so. 

Thinking that I hey were quite alone in the room, 
she stood gazing at them as if ove .come with joy. 
How elrii- ly -h- must have called to mind the days of 
her novitiate. Tier i ace became so transfigured that 
soiu of the novices, who then entered the room, 
were much struck, and one of them exclaimed, " Oh. 
that must be the Sister who saw the Blessed Virgin." 
The uncxp cted word-- rudely recalled Sister Catherine 
from her ecstasy, a; id, evidently dismayed at. being 
rcc< >g!;ized, site abruptly, "That s enough. Sister/ 
and disapp ar u hastily \vitli her companion. 

Soon a.V r her return to Knghi -i?. her heart began 
to fail, and ,he became entirely bedridden. Her 
slreiigth vapidly d L, aid asthma scUing in 

wore h -r out lit IK ijy little, so i ha!, it was evident 
to ail around (.hat the end was not far oil . She so 
calmly looked forward to her death that her com 
panions uvjd often to ref< u to it in their conversations 
with her, and coniid . d special missions to her with 
out any tea; 1 of ovcr-cxcitenn 

c " You are not at all afraid of death, are you. 
Sister Ci^herine ?" a-k / d one of them in surprise. 

" Afraid. Sister ?" she exclaimed. w But what 
makes yon think I should be a!\aiu ? I am going to 
sec Our Lord, the Ble.->sed Virgin, and St. Vincent !" 

1 2Q K 

Sister Catherine Laboiire 

ic l would wish/ she added, "that during my 
agony sixty-three of the children would come, and 
each of them invoke the Blessed Virgin by one of the 
invocations which recall the Immaculate Conception, 
and above all by these words, Terror of Demons, 
pray for us. 

On the remark that there were not sixty-three 
invocations in the Litany of Our Lady, she replied, 
You will find them in the Office of the Immaculate 

When talking familiarly another day to a Sister, 
she calmly said, " I shall go to Reuilly." " What," 
exclaimed the Sister, " go to Reuilly ! but you would 
never be strong enough." Then, thinking that 
Sister Catherine was raving, she added, in order to 
soothe her, " You have always loved Enghien so 
much, and you have never left it." 
I tell you, I shall go to Reuilly." 
" But when ?" 

Ah, that is the question," said Sister Catherine 
in so mysterious a tone that her companion was 
quite disconcerted. 

There will be no need of a hearse when I am 
buried," was the next remark. 

" Such an idea !" rejoined the Sister, trying to 
change the current of her thoughts. 

There will be no need of a hearse," emphatically 
repeated Sister Catherine. " I shall be left in the 
chapel at Reuilly." 

Her companion, astonished at these words, related 
them to her Sister-Servant, who said, " Do not speak 
of that to anyone." We will see how it came true. 
On the morning of December 31 she seemed to 


Pier Death 

become so much weaker that it was suggested that 
she should receive the last Sacraments at once. She 
gratefully accepted the proposal, and no one could 
help being impressed by the calm and intense happi 
ness which shone on her face during the anointing. 

That day some of the Sisters from the adjoining 
houses, who had heard how ill she was, came to see 
her, and amongst them her former companion, now 
in office at the seminary, who said sadly, " Sister 
Catherine, are you going away without saying a word 
to me about the Blessed Virgin ?" 

The dying Sister, turning towards her, spoke for 
some time in a very low voice, adding, " I am not to 
speak, it is to Father Chevalier that mission is re 
served"; but she added, "The Blessed Virgin is 
saddened because the treasure she has given to the 
community in the devotion to the Immaculate Con 
ception is not more fully appreciated, or made as 
much use of, as it ought to be. Above all, the chaplet 
is not well said. Our Lady has promised that each 
time that they pray in the chapel [of the mother- 
house] she will bestow on them, in a special way, an 
increase of purity, that purity of heart, mind, and 
will which is pure love." 

Sister Catherine Laboure, animated by the primi 
tive spirit of the community, was unconsciously 
echoing the words of the Foundress, the Venerable 
Louise de Marillac, in the prayer she composed in 
honour of the Immaculate Conception, and which her 
Daughters say at the end of each decade of the rosary. 

Another Sister who went that day to see her recom 
mended to her various intentions, and ended by 
saying, " My good Sister Catherine, when you are in 

Sister Catherine Lab our e 

Heaven, you will not forget to do all my com 
missions ?" 

" Sister, I am very willing to do so, but I have 
always been so stupid, I do not know if I will be 
able to explain, for I do not know how they talk in 

When she heard this reply, the Sister was so 
charmed with such manifest humility that she said, 
" But in Heaven they have not to speak as we do 
on earth; the soul looks at God, and God looks at 
the soul, and all is understood. That is the language 
of Heaven." 

"Oh, Sister," was Sister Catherine s answer, "if 
that is the way, you may be at ease, for I shall see 
to all your commissions." 

Father Chevalier went to see her, and spoke 
similarly about several intentions. Sister Catherine 
said to him among other things, " Pilgrimages made 
by the Sisters do not increase their piety. The 
Blessed Virgin did not tell me we were to go so 
far away in order to pray to her; it is in the Com 
munity Chapel she wishes the Sisters to appeal to her. 
That is their true place of pilgrimage." 

At four o clock that evening the fainting fits began 
again, and the Sisters gathered round her. But the 
end had not yet come. It w r as not till seven o clock 
that she breathed her last, without the least agony 
or any sign of suffering in fact, so calmly that 
those around her could scarcely realize that she was 

With her death the triumph of Sister Catherine 
began. At once all those who surrounded her death 
bed were filled with the conviction that they knelt 


Her Death 

near the body of a saint. The veil of humility under 
which she had so long remained hidden was, as it 
were, suddenly torn away, and the soul so privileged 
by God was visible at last. 

Next day the body was taken down to the chapel 
at Enghien. People of every rank and age flocked 
there, not to pray for the repose of the soul, but to 
recommend themselves to the intercession of her 
whose presence in their midst had been so unnoticed 
while she was on earth. 

Where was their treasure to be laid ? Such was 
the question eagerly asked by her companions, who 
could not consent that the house which had been so 
zealously protected by her presence for forty-six 
years should now be deprived of her body. 

Could they obtain the civil authorization to keep 

L We must pray," said the Sister-Servant in reply 
to these questions; and all during the night the 
Sisters who were watching beside the body of Sister 
Catherine implored the Blessed Virgin to help them. 
But they seemed to seek in vain for any solution of 
the difficulty. 

Next morning Sister JDufes, on her way to ring the 
bell for the rising at four o clock, heard a voice dis 
tinctly saying these words, " The vault under the 
chapel at Reuilly." At once she remembered that 
years before, when the chapel had been built, there 
had been constructed a small cellar which com 
municated with the children s refectory, and Sister 
Mazin, then Sister-Servant, had said, " It might be 
of use later on." 

The time had now come. There was not a moment 


Sister Catherine Laboure 

to be lost, for the authorization, always so difficult 
to obtain, had not yet been solicited. 

Madame MacMahon, wife of the President of the 
Republic, was one of their earliest visitors that day, 
and on being consulted, undertook all necessary 
arrangements. She telegraphed to the Prefect of 
the Police, who immediately sent the authorization 
so eagerly desired. 

On January 3, 1877, feast of St. Genevieve, the 
funeral took place. After the Requiem Mass a long 
procession passed down the alley in the garden, which 
lay between the Hospice of Enghien and the chapel 
at Reuilly, and where stands the statue Sister 
Catherine loved so much. 

First came the young workmen, who were Children 
of Mary, carrying their Sodality banner, then the 
little orphan boys, followed first by the young girls, 
both boarders and day pupils, who were attached 
to the different associations of the Children of Mary, 
and then by over 250 Sisters of Charity, who imme 
diately preceded the Priests of the Mission and the 
secular clergy. Then appeared the plain coffin, 
covered with lilies and eglantine, amid the solemn 
chanting of the Benedictus. 

At the entrance to the vault the Children of Mary 
saluted the arrival of the body with the acclamation, 
" O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who 
have recourse to thee." 

Finally came the poor, to whom Sister Catherine 
had been so devoted, carrying a magnificent memorial 
wreath which they had brought. 

On the day of the funeral Sister Dufes received 
from Sister Grand, whom we have already quoted, 


Her Death 

these lines, with which we close this short account 
of one of Our Lady s most favoured children : 

" MY VERY DEAR SISTER. T am greatly touched 
by your goodness in thinking of me din-ing the eon- 
summation of the sacrifice you are now offering to 
Our Lord. Knowing how closely connected I was 
with the holy Daughter of Charity now flown to 
Heaven, you wished me to hear at once of her happi 
ness. No wonder, indeed, she closed her eyes fear 
lessly to this world, for the arms of Mary Im 
maculate were open to receive her, and the angels 
were singing in triumph at her entry into Heaven. 

" Good and holy Sister Catherine ! At last she 
has reached the harbour, and the Blessed Virgin has 
crowned the faithful servant, who so well guarded 
the secret of her gifts, and by her life, hidden in the 
shadow of silence, left all the glory to God. 

" When I heard that at last she spoke so openly 
and unreservedly, I thought how provident ial it was. 
The sole object of her last work was to assure us of 
Mary s perpetual help; and her last desire was that 
the wonders of which she was the happy confidante 
would never be forgotten. 

" All that she said during those months before her 
death seemed to foretell the near end of her course, 
for good Sister Catherine, whose life had always been 
so hidden, would certainly have remained silent if 
she had not felt strongly urged to speak once again 
of the inestimable favour of the sweet apparition. 

" I do not know any other details than those I 
told to Father Chevalier some months ago. One t he- 
dear Sister never told, was that of her preparation 


Sister Catherine Laboure 

for the great favours she had received. It seems 
that for a long time her pure and fervent soul had 
ardently longed to see the August Queen of Angels, 
and she most earnestly besought God for the great 
grace which later fulfilled all her desires. 

I am united with you, both in your sorrow and 
in your consolation. If the sorrow is bitter, the 
consolation is great, for we have an advocate at the 
feet of our Heavenly Mother, and we may feel sure 
she will never forget the two families whose con 
solation she was on earth, and for whom she now 
pleads at Mary s feet." 





AT the request of Father Antoine Fiat, Superior 
General of the Congregation of the Missionaries of 
Saint Vincent of Paul, and of the Sisters of Charity, 
the Sovereign Pont i IT has just granted a signal favour. 

It was fitting," says the Church in the office of 
the Immaculate Virgin Mary under the title of the 
Miraculous Medal, "that the maternal love which 
Mary manifested with so much power and liberality 
by the means of the Holy Medal should not be for 
gotten, and that at the same time the devotion to the 
Immaculate Conception amongst Christian people 
ought to be furthered and increased." In order to 
attain these ends, the Apostolic See wished that, as had 
already been gt anted in the ease of the Rosary and of 
the Scapular of Mount Carrnel, a special feast should 
be celebrated each year in commemoration of the 
apparition of the most Blessed Mother of God, and 
of her Holy Medal. 

Wherefore, after a most careful examination of 
all the facts by the Sacred Congregation of Rites, 
and in accordance with the favourable decision 
thereof, L >o XLIL, PontilT, has authorized 
for th.) Congregation of th-e Priests of Saint: Vincent 


Feast of the Miraculous Medal 

of Paul always faithful to the traditions of its holy 
founder in the profession of devotion to the Immacu 
late Conception of Mary, a special Office and a Mass 
of the Manifestation of the Blessed Virgin Immaculate 
under the title of the Miraculous Medal. A similar 
favour will be granted to the Bishops and Religious 
Families who will ask for it. 

In accordance with the Decree of July 23, 1894, 
this solemn feast, with Office and proper Mass," will 
be celebrated yearly by the Priests of the Congregation 
of the Mission, under the rite of second class, and 
under the rite of double major by the Ordinaries and 
religious Communities who shall have asked it." By 
another decree of the Sacred Congregation of Rites 
in date of September 7th, 1894, any priest is allowed 
to say this same proper Mass in any chapel attached 
to the houses of the Sisters of Charity. 



A plenary Indulgence applicable to the Souls in 
Purgatory is granted by His Holiness Leo XIII. to 
all the faithful, who being sincerely contrite and 
having approached the Sacraments of Penance and 
Holy Communion, visit any church or oratory 
attached to the houses of the Priests of the Mission 
or of the Sisters of Charity, in all parts of the world, 
on the feast of the Manifestation of the Immaculate 
Virgin, under the title of the Miraculous Medal, that 
is to say on the 27th of November of each year, from 
the first vespers to sunset of the feast, provided 
they pray according to the intentions of the Sovereign 
Pontiff. Brief of the 21th of August, 1894. 

A partial Indulgence of a hundred days is granted 
once a day to all those who recite devoutly the invo 
cation : O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us 
who have recourse to thee.~Leo XIII., March 15. 





The Sovereign Pontiff, Pius X., furnishes a new 
motive for spreading devotion to the Immaculate 
Virgin of the Miraculous Medal by erecting the 
Association of the Miraculous Medal the members 
of which participate in the indulgences and privileges 
granted to the Scapular of the Immaculate Con 

The centre of this Association is established at 
the Mother House of the Daughters of Charity in 
Paris. To become a member it is sufficient to have 
the Medal imposed, according to the approved rite, 
by a priest delegated by the Superior General of the 
Congregation of the Mission. The faculty is granted 
to any priest who asks for it. 

A. FIAT, Sup. Gen. C. M. 



The Association of the Miraculous Medal in honour 
of the Immaculate Conception has been established 
as a living and perpetual memorial of the apparition 


The Miraculous Medal 

of Mary Immaculate, which took place in the Chapel 
of the Daughters of Charity, Rue du Bar. Paris, in 
the year 1830, the feast of which is celebrated on 
November 27. At this apparition the Blessed Virgin 
herself clearly indicated the design of the commemora 
tive Medal that was to be struck. The devotion to 
the Medal spread and wrought wonders, and thus 
received from the faithful the title of " miraculous." 


The end or aim of the Association is to render due 
honour to Mary Immaculate, first by sanctifying 
ourselves, and second by contributing to the sanctifi- 
cation of our neighbour by means of the Miraculous 
Medal. The Medal is an cilicacious symbol of this 
double sanctiiicat ion. in virtue of the promises attached 
to it by Mary hevself. 


The Association canonically erected in each diocese, 
is governed according to its own laws and usages, by 
diocesan directors, appointed by their respective 
bishops, but under the authority of one director 


By virtue of a Rescript of His Holiness Pius X., 
June 3., 1905, the same privileges and indulgences 
granted to the Association of the Scapular of the 
Immaculate Conception (Blue Scapular) have been 
extended to the Association of the Miraculous Medal. 


The Miraculous Medal 


All the faithful of both sexes may become members 
of this Association and sharers in its privileges. The 
only condition is that they wear the Medal suspended 
from the neck on the breast, when the Medal has been 
blessed and imposed according to the rite approved 
by Leo XIII. (April 19, 1895), by a priest delegated 
to do so. 


The principal feast of the Association is November 
27 Feast of the Apparition of the Immaculate 
Virgin of the Miraculous Medal. 


The associates incur no new obligation. They 
are recommended to repeat frequently the invocation 
inscribed on the Medal: " O Mary, conceived without 
sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee." 

The director general of the Association is the 
Superior General (pro tempore existens) of the Con 
gregation of the Mission and of the Daughters of 



JUNE 3, 1905. 


1. On day of reception. 

2. On day of first Mass of young priest. 

3. At the hour of death. 

4. During the exercises of a retreat, once a year. 

5. On the first Sunday of each month. 

6. All the Saturdays of Lent. 

7. On Passion Sunday and en following Friday. 

8. On Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of Holy 

9. On feasts of Christmas, Epiphany, Easter, Ascen 
sion and Holy Trinity. 

10. On feasts of Immaculate Conception, Nativity, 
Purification, Annunciation and Assumption of the 
Blessed Virgin Mary. 

11. On the principal Theatine feasts: Saint Cajetan, 
August 7; Exaltation of the Holy Cross, September 
14; Saint Andrew Av., November 10; Saint Joseph, 
March 19; Blessed Joseph Mary Thomas, March 24; 
Finding of Holy Cross, May 3; Blessed Paul Buralis 
(Theatine), June 17; Saint John Baptist, June 24; 
Saint Peter and Saint Paul, June 29; last Sunday of 
July; Our Lady of Angels of Portiuncula, August 2; 
Saint Augustine. August 28; Saint Michael the Arch- 

Indulgences for 

angel, September 29; Guardian Angel, October 2; 
Saint Theresa, October 15; All Saints, Kovember 1; 
Blessed John Maronius (Theatine), December 13. 

12. On several other days of the year; the first 
and last days of Christmas novena. Once a year 
during the Forty Hours. April 12, Canonization of 
Saint Cajetan. Once at option. 

18. The indulgences of the Roman Stations on 
day specified in Roman Missal, on condition that one 
visit a church containing an altar of the Blessed 
Virgin and pray for the ordinary intentions. (If the 
Theatines have a church in the place that church is 
to be visited. Pius IX., December 3, 1847.) 

14. The indulgences of the seven Roman Basilicas 
twice a month. (Conditions same as last above.) 

15. The indulgences gi anted tho^e who visit the 
Holy Land and the Holy Sepulchre. (Conditions 
as in 13.) 

1G. All the indulgences granted those who visit 
the seven Roman Basilicas, the Portirncula indul 
gence, the JeiusaUm and the Saint James of Com- 
postella indulgences, on condition that one iccite 
six Paters, Aves, and Glorias, in honou?" of the most 
Holy Trinity and of the Immaculate Mother of God, 
to obtain the exaltation of the Church, the extirpa 
tion of heresies, and peace and union among Christian 
Princes. By a decree of the Congregation of Indul 
gences, March 31, 1859, the indulgences of the seven 
Roman Basilicas, of the Portiuncula, of Jerusalem, 
and of Saint James Compost ella may be gained 
every time (toties quoties) that a member of the 
Association of the Miraculous Medal recites six Paters, 
Aves, and Glorias, anywhere, and in any posture, 

* 144 

the Miraculous Medal 

without adding any other prayers and even without 
receiving tin- Sacraments (the state of grace of course 
supposed). All these indulgences arc applicable 
to the souls in Purgatory. This decree of the Con 
gregation was confirmed by Pius IX., April 14, 1856. 


1. Sixty years for those who make half an hour s 

2. Twenty years for visiting the sick, aiding them 
spiritually or corporally, or (if the visit be impossible) 
reciting for the intention of the sick, five Paters, Aves, 
and Glorias. This indulgence may be gained on 
the feasts of our Lord, and on those of the Saints of 
the August inian, Dominican, Carmelite, Trinitarian 
and Servite Orders. 

3. Seven years and seven quarantines on the 
minor feasts of the Blessed Virgin Mary. And when 
one goes to Confession and Communion, when one 
accompanies the Holy Viaticum, when one recites 
seven Paters, Arcs, and Glorias for the sick who have 
just received Holy Communion. The same indul 
gence is gained on all the feasts to which a plenary 
indulgence is attached for visiting a church containing 
an altar dedicated to the Blessed Virgin. Confession 
and Communion are not prescribed for this indulgence. 

The same for the recitation of the Hail, Holy 
Queen, at Vespers, when one prays for the needs of 
the Church; daily from Septuagesima to Palm 
Sunday on condition that one receive Holy Com 
munion and recite seven Paters, Aves and Glorias, 
for the needs of the Church; on the feasts of the 

145 L 


Exaltation of the Holy Cross, if an alms be given 
according to one s moans; on three Fridays of each 
month by receiving Holy Communion; seven days 
before Christmas; every Monday if one visit the 
Blessed Sacrament. 

Five years and five quarantines, daily, if a visit 
be made to any church, and five Paters, Aves, and 
Glorias, be recited. An indulgence of 300 days 
daily during the Octave of Pentecost, 200 days each 
time that one is present at a sermon, 60 days for 
each pious work, 50 days for piously invoking the 
holy Names of Jesus and Mary, or when one recites 
a Pater, Ave, and Gloria, in any church for the living 
and the dead. 

Mass said at any altar for a deceased person who 
wore the Scapular of the Immaculate Conception 
(Blue Scapular) enjoys the spiritual advantage of a 
Mass said at a privileged altar. 

(Extract from a catalogue approved by the Sacred 
Congregation, August 26, 1882, Authent. Rescript 
II. N. 57 Cf. Beringer.) 

Printed in England 


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